"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Open Thread 62.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

Good news, everybody! Thanks to 75thTrombone, the ‘Report Comment’ option is back at the bottom right of every comment. Please resume snitching on each other.

To make it easier to use, I’ve restored the old comment policy, although I continue to reserve the right to occasionally ban people who I think are bad in ways that don’t technically violate any rules. Note that I’ve only done this once in the whole history of this blog.

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1,586 Responses to Open Thread 62.75

  1. andrewflicker says:

    In the process of reminding myself of the old comment policy, I went down the link-hole to http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/17/lies-damned-lies-and-social-media-part-5-of-%E2%88%9E/ and saw the first post was by an Andrew, bitching about statistics. I don’t think it was me, since the writing style is a bit off, but I’m glad to know that I’m one of a cadre of Andrews fighting the mis-use of statistics!

    • The Nybbler says:

      Reported.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Dare I ask why? Tongue-in-cheek: It was a truthful reporting of my experience, it’s a top-level comment on an open thread, so it’s as necessary as any other, and if the other Andrew isn’t me, I’m being kind to them (and if they were me, then I’m being kind to past-me!).

  2. Tekhno says:

    Typically, you need enough money to start with before you can invest properly, but what’s the best way to get good returns on a few thousand dollars/pounds?

    • Brad says:

      Depends on what you mean by best.

      *Probably* the answer you are looking for is a broad based low cost equity index fund.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Depends on your risk-appetite and your timeline. I’ll echo Brad and say that for most purposes, a super-low-fee index fund is best. (see Vanguard et al)

    • dndnrsn says:

      Another vote for index funds. In a tax-advantaged account if that’s possible.

    • Mark says:

      Sign up for gambling sites, take advantage of the bonuses on offer and cycle the real money into your account by betting on sure things/ boring poker play.

      Edit: Even better if you can leverage your earnings by funding it through an initially interest free credit card.

    • Randy M says:

      Keep it liquid to make sure you aren’t getting hit with late fees, overdraft fees, or credit card interest.
      (edit: Probably not actually the best, just something to keep in mind.)

      • Eric Rall says:

        This also has follow-on benefits from letting you save on insurance by switching to higher-deductible polices: you save money on average, but have to be prepared for the risk that you’ll have a claim and need to pay the deductible.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Maybe not the best but “no credit card debt” is generally better than “money invested but also credit card debt”.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      You’ll want a mutual fund. Vanguard’s mostly have a $3000 minimum, but a few have $1000; you can buy into a very distant target retirement fund and have a very diversified set of stocks in your portfolio. This will also handle auto-balancing for you and such.

      If this is your last (or first) few thousand, however, you might want to consider keeping it liquid as advised above, just in case.

      (I am not an investment professional. You are heartily encouraged to do your own reasearch, not trust any specific numbers, etc. Advice based on U.S. financial experience only.)

      • Matt M says:

        You can also buy ETFs that mirror most of the same indexes the mutual funds do. Their fees on a percentage basis are a bit higher, but you don’t have to worry about minimums and can buy or sell in any increment you want at any time.

        • Brad says:

          I don’t think that’s right. In my experience ETFs have a lower fee than their mutual fund equivalents (except perhaps for the very high minimum purchase variants). And as you note, no minimums.

          SPY is the most popular ETF by AUM. It has an expense ratio of 0.10%. The equivalent mutual fund from the same company is SSSVX. Class A shares of that have a front end load (yuck) of 5.25% plus an expense ratio of 0.47%.

          Even for mutual funds that aren’t an outright scam, ETFs can be better. VTI is the third most popular ETF by AUM. It has an expense ratio of 0.05%. The equivalent mutual funds are VTSMX which has a an expense ratio of 0.16% and a minimum purchase of $3000 and VTSAX which has an expense ratio of 0.05% and a minimum purchase of $10,000.

          Where ETFs hit you is in trading costs — both directly in the form of fees and indirectly in the form of bid-ask spread.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, I’m sorry, I should have clarified. ETFs will end up being more expensive, particularly if you buy in small increments, mostly because of commissions. I’m not sure the distinction is that relevant for a new investor though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This is how it seems to me – I’m using an index ETF. There’s a flat trading fee that’s considerably less than a single share, though, so the cost of trading is negligible when done in large increments.

          • Anon. says:

            >mostly because of commissions.

            These days you can use Robin Hood.

    • Eric Rall says:

      1. Pay down high-interest debt, if you have any. Not paying interest on a credit card balance is a guaranteed return of 10-25%, which is way better than you’re likely to get elsewhere short of insider trading.

      2. Standard advice about keeping at least a few hundred dollars in a bank account or similar for emergencies.

      3. Look for low-hanging fruit in terms of household capital.

      Food prep is a big opportunity area for most people: if you eat out or buy pre-prepared food for most of your meals, you can save a lot of money by cooking for yourself instead. Buying a few hundred dollars worth of good-quality kitchen tools and gadgets can give you an excellent return-on-investment by improving the quality of what you cook for yourself and reducing the trivial inconveniences of cooking. Megan McArdle has a good list of suggested options. If you don’t already know how to cook, your local community center probably offers classes fairly cheaply, or you can buy books or videos to learn from. I recommend anything by America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Illustrated (different brands run by the same people) for the former, and Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” series for the latter.

      Other potential areas to look into: switching to a more fuel-efficient car (or buying a bike, if you live close enough to work to commute by bike), catching up on deferred maintenance on your car (and your house, if you own it), buying stuff to work out at home to save on gym membership (don’t do this if you need the routine of “going to the gym” to stick to a workout plan), buying basic tools and how-to guides to do your own minor repairs/improvements instead of hiring a handyman.

      4. If you have all of the above covered, the index funds everyone else are recommending are a good start. That’s where I’ve got most of my money apart from the equity in my house. I’ve got quite a bit now (the product of 17 years of prudent living on a programmer’s salary), but I started out with about a thousand dollars. I tried picking individual stocks at first, and that was useful in terms of engaging my interest, getting in the habit of saving and investing, and learning about finance; but I didn’t do as well as I would have with index funds, and it took more time and effort than I cared to sustain in the long run.

      • Randy M says:

        Where does one go to start investing?
        If I have retirement funds through work, would it be best to just increase that (assuming I’m not getting any additional matched funds), or walk into a Fidelity office and say “I’ve got $2,000, help me get a bit more”?

        • Evan Þ says:

          Depends on (a) whether you’re investing for retirement or something earlier, and (b) what sort of funds your workplace lets you access.

        • Brad says:

          That would be kind of like walking into a used car dealership and saying “I’ve got $2,000, which car can I get”?

          The general rule of thumb:
          1) 401k till matching limit
          2) HSA if possible
          3) IRA if possible
          4) back to 401k to max limit
          5) taxable investments

          That’s assuming retirement savings as a goal. If you need / want access before that some of those aren’t good options. It also leaves out things like paying down debt and emergency funds.

          bogleheads is the go to source for this kind of thing. (It’s not inerrant in every detail, or perfect for every circumstance, but it is a place to learn reasonably solid conventional wisdom.)

          • Randy M says:

            Okay, that helps.

            I took a hard look at our finances a few years ago, tightened the belts and paid down two student loans, car payment, & credit cards, plus saved up a few thousand. Recently went back into debt for a new car; even expecting to get it paid off pretty quick I’m a bit uncomfortable about it, but it was a good deal and maintenance was starting to creep up on the previous one.

        • gbdub says:

          Not sure about you, but for me our work 401k (managed by Morgan Stanley currently) has the option of allocating your investments among a number of funds (including Vanguard). The downside is that these funds / management may have higher fees.

          If you’re not already maxing out your 401k contributions and are saving primarily for retirement, do that first to get maximum benefit from the tax deferred status. Also, some people don’t even give enough to their 401k to max out their employer-matching – that’s free money, don’t throw it away.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I walked into a TD Waterhouse office (now TD Ameritrade) with a check and asked to open an account. I’ve still got most of my money that isn’t in my 401k or my regular account there, and for a long time, I used my brokerage account as my main checking account: Ameritrade gives at least a good an interest rate on your cash position as most banks, and they give you a debit card and a checkbook and you can set up direct deposit to go there. I think Fidelity lets you do this, too. I’m not sure about the other major brokerages.

          If you ask for advice when you go in to set up your account, make sure you research it independently before you act on it, and be very skeptical of anything that’s not the kind of boilerplate advice you’d get online. Unless they’re a professional financial adviser whom you’re paying by the hour, their incentives are not aligned with yours. Regard them as salespeople calling your attention to potential options.

          Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Schwab all have good account management websites, so once you have an account set up, you can buy and sell stocks and funds through that without having to go back to the office.

          Whether you’re better off opening a brokerage account or adding to your employer’s retirement account depends on your situation, as there are advantages to each.

          A brokerage account is going to be more liquid and flexible. There’s a big tax penalty for withdrawing from a retirement account early, so prefer the brokerage account if you’re saving for a non-retirement expense (down payment on a house, long-term emergency fund, childrens’ educations, etc).

          Your retirement account (assuming it’s a 401(k) or similar) will probably also have a limited menu of investment options, so you might be able to get a better return with lower fees with your own account. This is only really an issue if your employer has crappy options (high fees, no index funds, etc) or if you want to experiment with investing in individual stocks.

          The two big advantages of topping off your retirement fund beyond what your employer matches are:
          1. You’ll probably get a better after-tax return on your investment. Assuming you’re American and in a middle-class income bracket: in a brokerage account you’ll earn the money, pay about 25-40% taxes on the last few dollars of it (federal and state income taxes and payroll tax), invest it, hopefully earn a profit, and then pay 10-20% taxes (federal capital gains and state income tax) on the profit when you sell it. Assuming 30% and 15% marginal tax rates and a 50% profit (over the course of several years) to make the math easy: you earn $2000, pay $600 in taxes and invest $1400, make a $700 profit on which you owe $105 in taxes, leaving you with $1995 total (your initial investment plus $595 in after-tax profits).

          For your 401(k), you’ll pay only payroll tax up front, at 6.25% (your employer pays another 6.25%, but that doesn’t affect the calculation), and then pay ordinary income taxes on the entire amount you withdraw. In this case, you earn $2000, pay $12.50 in taxes and invest $1987.50, make a $993.75 profit for a total withdrawable amount of $2981.25. You’ll owe $894.38 in taxes, leaving you with $2086.87 total.

          2. Raising your contribution to your employer retirement account is a lot easier than creating a brokerage account, setting up regular contributions, and investing them. This saves you a trivial inconvenience and makes it more likely you’ll actually invest the money in a timely fashion.

          • Eric Rall says:

            You can set up special accounts (IRAs) with a broker that have similar tax benefits to a 401(k), but the maximum contribution is a lot smaller ($5500/year vs $18,000/year).

        • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

          I am by far not the most qualified about investing, but I’ve got a Betterment.com account that I’ve been depositing money in for a few years. It was really easy to set up, and I can just do an automatic deposit once a month and forget about it.

        • chroMa says:

          (Disclosure: Used to work for Fidelity Investments, had Series 7, 66, passed CFP exam, but no longer work in finance).

          That being said, especially for people who aren’t ultra wealthy, Fidelity is the way to go for a low cost brokerage. People often talk about Vanguard (and you can get Vanguard funds at Fidelity, but theres extra commission), but Fidelity Index funds tie Vanguard for fees or beat them. I don’t know how exactly, but especially in Bond funds (I was bored at work once and spent an hour comparing Fidelity v. Vanguard index funds) the funds tend to have lower minimum investments, the same fees, but the returns are… higher? This was all as of like… February 2016.

          But, in addition to having we’ll say ‘comparable index funds’, you also get really cheap trading, really good trade execution, and also if you do decide you want to go ETFs, Fidelity has a list of 70 something ‘iShares ETFs’ (they’re made by Blackrock I think), that are commission free as long as you don’t sell them within 30 days of buying them.

          People have been saying ‘buy Index funds’, but I think something else important is 70/30 split of Domestic/International. Historically this mix has higher returns and lower risk than All domestic or All international.

          For example: FSTMX (Total Market Index Fund) 70% and FSGUX (Global ex. US Fund) 30%. Respectively the Net Expense Ratio on these two funds is .09% and .18%

          To do this with ETF’s: ITOT (Total Market ETF) 70% and IXUS (All Country World Index ex US). Respectively the Net Expense Ratio on these two funds is .03% and .11%. Both of these are iShares so they’re commission free.

          (P.s. Fidelity index funds used to be called ‘Spartan Funds’ which was such a good name for an Index fund. I’m really mad they renamed them.)

      • bean says:

        I’ll second the recommendation for Cook’s Illustrated. I’m not an enthusiastic cook, but every time I look at their stuff (my mom gets the magazine, and I think has most of the books) I’m impressed with how scientific it is. Lots of “why did we do it this way? Well, we tried the traditional way, and seven others, and this worked the best.” And they’re usually right, as evidenced by the fact that the aforementioned mother, who is a pretty serious amateur cook, has had her cooking improved by it, even on fairly basic items.

        • gbdub says:

          The Serious Eats blog also has some great stuff with a lot of food prep science and experiments in a fun format.

          • bean says:

            It’s not quite ‘food science’ in the ‘cooking for geeks’ sense. They don’t tie it into chemistry or physics or anything. It’s just that they clearly show their work in writing recipes, and I can’t describe how they go about it as anything other than ‘scientific’.

          • gbdub says:

            I was thinking of the “Food Lab” section, which does a lot of practical experimenting and touches on some science.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Cook’s Illustrated is great. While their target is the short-on-time-long-on-money serious amateur cook, they contain a lot of tips that are useful even if you can’t afford a coffee machine costing several hundred dollars or a top-of-the-line knife set or whatever.

          That they give some insight into how cooking works in a way that at least references science is useful, because it helps you carry ideas over to other recipes.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        Food prep is a big opportunity area for most people: if you eat out or buy pre-prepared food for most of your meals, you can save a lot of money by cooking for yourself instead.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I sometimes wonder about the TCO of cooking one’s own food. If you could spend that time doing something else that earns money, might it be worth it to order out instead? Suppose, for instance, that you would take an hour to prepare a meal. If you could earn $10 in that hour, then a prepped version of that dish is worth up to $10 plus the cost of the materials.

          Obviously, your expected wage during that time, and the time it would normally require, are key factors. As is whether you’d just consider it fun (a prime reason for my choosing to cook my own food).

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Paul Brinkley

            That paragraph came from Eric Rall above. I was quoting it to agree with him, but WordPress ate the rest of my comment (I’ve reposted it below).

            Paul, you say: Obviously, your expected wage during that time, and the time it would normally require, are key factors.

            Another key factor is what kind of chore-work the cooking is, and what kind of mood it sends you back to work in. Chopping vegetables can be a soothing chore while thinking about work; or juggling hot skillets to get everything ready at the same time can be exciting with various effects.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        I apologize for the first version of my comment going out unfinished and somehow lacking an ‘edit’ button. This has happened before, and seems to be linked to a “You have already said this” message.

        @ Eric Rall
        Food prep is a big opportunity area for most people: if you eat out or buy pre-prepared food for most of your meals, you can save a lot of money by cooking for yourself instead.

        Yep. My own yeast bread has been the easiest thing to learn to cook.* It makes for direct and indirect saving. Ingredient costs are tiny. No part of the loaf goes stale or moldy, since I bake it as needed. Having bread on hand supports sandwiches, dips, cheap stuff on toast or in soup with big croutons, etc. Less frequent trips to the grocery save gasoline.

        * I’m still on the easiest recipes: ‘no-knead bread’, ‘refrigerator bread’.

    • mmontoriblog says:

      I would recommend the book “You Can Be a Stock Market Genius” by Joel Greenblatt. Try to get past the incredibly bad title. Joel Greenblatt outperformed the market for a long time by investing in intricate but ultimately understandable situations that most analysts simply aren’t willing to research long and hard enough to uncover, and in the book he walks you through some examples. Those opportunities are still out there if you have the patience to look for them.

      If you’re looking for a passive approach, I think an index fund is a good bet as well, but there is an additional bit of information that is pretty crucial – you have to actively keep yourself from trying to time the market. Otherwise you’ll buy and sell at the wrong times, and you’ll end up underperforming like anyone else. I’d recommend putting some sort of rule in place (for example, every month you deposit 10% of your income into a particular basket of vanguard equity index funds) and don’t change it when things get worse.

    • John Schilling says:

      If this is the first few thousand dollars you have available to save, it’s your emergency fund. The most important thing is not the rate of return you can get for it, but that you have it immediately and reliably available on demand. Even a small chance of being stuck with, e.g., $3000 in a six-month CD and a $1000 payday loan because you can’t wait six months to get a new alternator for your car, should outweigh the extra percent or two of return you could get on the longer-term but illiquid investment.

      Index funds might be adequately liquid, but check with whomever is trying to sell you one to be sure. Money-market accounts and even boring old-fashioned savings accounts are worth considering in this context.

      • Tekhno says:

        No, I’m not super poor. I’m just super super stingy and I’ve decided to risk just a few thousand.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The thinking I have is that broad-based index funds are distributed across the whole market, so any situation where my investments are destroyed and don’t recover is one where the whole market is destroyed and doesn’t recover, in which case I’ll probably have bigger worries than my investments. The argument for investing is that compound interest can be a big deal.

          • baconbacon says:

            The thinking I have is that broad-based index funds are distributed across the whole market, so any situation where my investments are destroyed and don’t recover is one where the whole market is destroyed and doesn’t recover, in which case I’ll probably have bigger worries than my investments

            This is such a bizarre position to me, you know that time when I am most going to need something to fall back on, periods of fear and anxiety where good decision making is at its most challenging and marginal returns are at their highest? Yeah, I’m not making any contingency plans for those, I’m just going to ride them out so I can ensure that I have $83,000 a year to spend in retirement and not $79,000. One of those would be a real disaster.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I do have an emergency fund, I probably should have mentioned. I’m not plowing everything into the market.

          • baconbacon says:

            What is the emergency fund in (if you don’t mind my asking)

          • dndnrsn says:

            I always keep some money in my chequing account in case my credit card gets denied or I’m somewhere debit-only or cash only. I also have a savings account I park money in while saving up a chunk large enough to be worth investing (due to a flat trading fee) so I will generally have some money there.

            The basic goal, as I understand it, is that even if friends and family could be fallen back upon (I am lucky enough that this is the case), it’s a good idea to have a few hundred available immediately, and enough to deal with rent, food, etc for a month or two accessible as well – the latter will of course be greater for someone with a family or other major obligations.

          • baconbacon says:

            The basic goal, as I understand it, is that even if friends and family could be fallen back upon (I am lucky enough that this is the case), it’s a good idea to have a few hundred available immediately, and enough to deal with rent, food, etc for a month or two accessible as well – the latter will of course be greater for someone with a family or other major obligations.

            While this is a sound strategy for 95%+ of events, these things won’t functionally protect you in a near worst case financial meltdown. 2008 can pretty close to crushing money market funds, which (probably) would have caused massive bank failures and an inability to access funds for between a few days and a few months.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Definitely true. There’s always something that can go wrong.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ dndnrsn (or anyone lee who wants to reply)

            I’m currently working on a project that is basically attempting to help people shift their risk away from this type of scenario. Would you mind answering a few questions that might help me?

            1. Would you ever consider using options/do you know anything about options?
            2. What is your opinion on gold in terms of the association you have with the types of people who buy gold?

          • dndnrsn says:

            1. I’m vaguely aware of options, but have basically decided to limit the complexity of what I’m doing. I don’t want to delude myself into thinking I can beat the market, because all the evidence suggests being able to do so consistently is a rare ability. I like the “set it and forget it” nature of what I’m doing.

            2. If we’re talking the actual economic reality of gold, I have no idea. If we’re talking about the stereotype of “goldbugs”, the mental image I have is of somebody who is low-key crazy. Ron Paul, not Alex Jones.

        • Tekhno says:

          Is a broad based index fund the same thing as a mutual fund?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Index funds are basically a type of mutual fund that seeks to follow the market (or some segment of it). The advantage is that, compared to an “actively managed” mutual fund it’s a lot cheaper to run. Given that most traders – and thus must mutual funds – fail to outperform the market in the long run, index funds appear to be the better buy.

          • Brad says:

            A mutual fund is a legal structure that defines a collective investment vehicle. A broad based index fund is a type of mutual fund with a particular class of investment strategies (it can also be embodied in other legal structures such as an exchange-traded fund).

        • Fossegrimen says:

          This kind of implies that you’d like to have more fun with the investment than just stashing it in an index fund? Since it’s money you can afford to lose so to speak?

          If so, you might enjoy the following algorithm:

          – Buy stock only in established firms / mature industries
          – Buy only stock that pays dividends
          – Buy stock when P/E ratio is low ( under 15 )
          – Sell stock when P/E ratio is high ( over 20 )

          This has given me an average 14% return since the early nineties and if you go back and check the numbers, it seems to fit what Warren Buffet has been doing all along. (This is the reason I did it, I only have a very vague understanding of how this works, but if the Oracle from Omaha thinks it’s good, I’ll be happy to copy the idea.)

          edit: anyone know why “open parenthesis ~ < number close parenthesis" seems to delete the follwing line? Some wordpress macro stuff?

    • StellaAthena says:

      The answer to the question that you think you’re asking is “index funds” as people keep saying.

      The answer to the question that you’re actually asking is to build a computer that has a built-in generator to recharge its batteries, load it with the complete history of the stock market, go back in time, and make perfect investments

      Oh, and don’t forget to carefully incrypt the data so that when you’re invariably audited by the IRS in 1880 it’s harder for them to figure out what the hell is going on with your magic box that spits out investment recommendations.

    • janrandom says:

      LW:
      http://lesswrong.com/lw/kzh/a_guide_to_rational_investing/

      Also:
      “How to Invest $50-$5,000: The Small Investor’s Step-By-Step Plan for Low-Risk, High-Value Investing”
      http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1154797.How_to_Invest_50_5_000

    • eh6 says:

      Spend it on professional development books and courses, exercise equipment, finding a wife [1], and anything else that is statistically likely to increase your salary.

      If you’re not very wealthy [2], keep a budget, and make regular deposits to your savings, you’ll probably have noticed that returns on your investments are dwarfed by that regular deposit. Assume you can earn $5k more per year if you are better at e.g. LaTeX, MIG welding, copywriting, synergetic agile scrums, public speaking, etc.[3] If it costs $2k to take a welding course or to join toastmasters, then you should consider doing it.

      [1] A husband may also work, but I haven’t looked at the data.
      [2] Probably due to youth.
      [3] These examples are made up, and are probably really stupid.

    • Moon says:

      Just get an online broker and buy some SPY.

  3. Jiro says:

    Experience here shows that the “true, kind, necessary” rule is easily used as a weapon against other commentors. (Especially since failing one of those three can easily be interpreted as failing another. “Your comment isn’t true, so it obviously can’t be necessary”. )

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      That seems strange, since the “Tree gates” have been officially replaced with “whatever Scott feels like” like a thousand years ago.

      • Evan Þ says:

        As Scott said at the top of this thread, they’re now back.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Oh, I should probably read things sometimes.

          Also, this should probably be repeated later, since it’s not going to get a lot of exposure in a hidden open thread.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Do you think I’m doing this, or do you think random other commenters are? If the latter, doesn’t matter too much since I make final decisions.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I think that discussion of the commenting rules has been corrosive and I encourage people to just report the comment and move on.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          this.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think that comment was necessary, and its truthfulness is debatable.

          • Dahlen says:

            @rlms

            On a more serious note, necessity seems to be the most easy to fail out of the three criteria. Nobody’s chiming-in is actually necessary, it’s easier to just shut up when in doubt.

            Second easiest is truth, when it comes to affective expression and such.

          • aaarboretum says:

            I agree with Dahlen, especially in the open threads, where none of the top level comments are really ‘necessary’ since the point of them is to be a free-for-all.

            Also Scott, I imagine you’ll repeat this rule change again the main-site open thread in a week? Not everyone checks the hidden open threads.

          • John Colanduoni says:

            @aaarboretum

            But the open threads need at least one top level comment to fulfill their purpose. And since we don’t have a coordination mechanism, multiple comments are necessary.

            (Rule lawyering can be used for good too!)

      • Jiro says:

        Do you think I’m doing this, or do you think random other commenters are? If the latter, doesn’t matter too much since I make final decisions.

        I think it’s poisonous to useful discussion when commenters begin intimidating posters by taking advantage of the fact that pretty much post they disagree with can be fit into the box. “This post violates two of true, kind, and necessary” has become a local superweapon.. Even if you personally aren’t doing it, I think it still causes damage.

        Also, superweapons in general are bad news.

      • suntzuanime says:

        It’s really annoying to listen to. I mind the comment policy less than people being smarmy at each other about it.

        • drethelin says:

          This is why I support up/downvoting in general. It replaces a less noisy but more loud signal with a noiser but quieter one. If you see what I mean.

    • JulieK says:

      I haven’t noticed that. What I have seen is one person objects to a comment, someone else says “How come you don’t object when your own side makes mean comments,” and it devolves into partisan bickering.
      In fact, that happens too often on any sort of discussion. Instead of discussing issues, we discuss which tribe is worse.

      I recommend Thomas Jefferson’s rule from his “Manual of Parliamentary Practice”:

      No person in speaking is to digress from the matter to fall upon the person, by speaking reviling, nipping, or unmannerly words against a particular member. The consequences of a measure may be reprobated in strong terms; but to arraign the motives of those who propose or advocate it, is a personality, and against order.

  4. Dr Dealgood says:

    So I’m about to start up an OSR game for a group of entirely new players (one has some experience with 3.5, but otherwise nothing). But I’m having some second thoughts about the retroclone I was planning to run and I was hoping some of the grognards here could help me through the dilemma.

    I had originally planned to run Adventurer Conqueror King, which is basically a set of extremely detailed houserules for B/X. I really like a lot of the elements in it, such as reorganizing THAC0 in a way that humans can understand it, but the rules are just way too damn fiddly. I simply refuse to roll for the price of grain in every city in the world.

    So right now I’m debating between the following:
    a. Just run Rules Cyclopedia, maybe with ACKS-esque Attack Throws and hireling tables.
    b. Embrace the spreadsheet side of the force and run ACKS.
    c. Go hunting for another retroclone entirely.
    d. Dust off the Prince Valiant RPG.

    Anyone have any suggestions?

    • dndnrsn says:

      Was THAC0 that hard to understand? I never had a hard time understanding it. For bad rules, it’s got nothing on the old D&D saving throw progression table. Or the (as I understand it, recently killed) Call of Cthulhu Resistance Table.

      EDIT: Honestly, I don’t understand OSR in the slightest. If somebody wants to go back to the glory days of playing D&D in a dorm room eating Cheetos with their buddies, used D&D books are easy to get a hold of, Cheetos are still available, and the missing part of the experience is being young and in university.

      “It’s like the olden days, but with rules that don’t suck” ignores that, well, the rules sucking was part of it (“rulings, not rules” is just another way of saying “they didn’t design this game very well so there isn’t a workable skill system”) and you can never have the olden days back.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I never had trouble with THAC0, but everyone I ever tried to explain it to reacted like a vampire confronted with a crucifix.

        The saving throws come in oddly specific categories but I don’t see anything inherently wrong with them. Plus there’s a kitch appeal to rolling for Save vs Poison rather than a Fortitude or Constitution save.

        The thing that is really inexplicable to me is alignment languages. It’s just such a “huh?” moment when you get to that section of the rules. I have no idea what the point of that is supposed to be.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The saving throws were really weird because they meant that you’d roll differently versus an actual spell cast then and there vs. a spell cast from a wand, as I recall.

          I didn’t play D&D earlier than 2nd ed AD&D, but I remember that the saving throws were located in a completely different part of the book from all character creation stuff.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Responding to the edit:

        I wasn’t alive during the old school era, and my first game was D&D 3.5 followed by Pathfinder. Nostalgia for me would be going back over old Tippyverse threads on GiantITP.

        The thing I like about OSR is that it’s a totally different set of assumptions for how the game is played and what the goal is. XP for GP, stronghold and domain rules, reaction and morale rolls for monsters, 3d6 in order ability scores: it all makes for a very different set of incentives.

        I feel like the newer editions are very much like the Star Wars VII. They nail the aesthetic, and the effects are a definite improvement over the original. But the heart is gone and even though it’s “bigger” in every way it feels smaller.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I started playing D&D shortly before the 2nd/3rd switch.

          3rd ed struck me as an attempt to “regularize” everything (have a “sneak” skill instead of giving rogues a “sneak” ability, and just give rogues more skill points, for instance), and an attempt to make everything covered by skills (I am pretty sure that 2nd ed never really covered how to handle “I try to fast talk the city guard into letting me through the gates after curfew”).

          It succeeded, partially, but also faced the problem that the more rules you add the weirder unintended consequences you get.

          I personally dislike the “rulings, not rules” attitude because it creates a disjunction between, say, STR and CHA. Nobody would say “you’re a puny weakling, so your character can’t wield a greatsword” but “you are not a good talker, so your character can’t be” is common. I remember making characters with low CHA but then fast-talking NPCs because I was able to fast-talk the GM.

          • Randy M says:

            Have you seen Angry DM’s article on social interaction? I love that site and don’t think I’ve plugged it here before.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This is great.

          • beleester says:

            That’s a very good article, I wish I had it read it back when I GM’d for my friends.

            Also, one thing that jumped out at me: “Rewarding good acting with a bonus is no different than giving someone a bonus for describing their axe swing particularly well.”

            Exalted does exactly this – you can get bonus dice on any roll by “Stunting” – describing what you’re doing in a brief and flashy way. Talking in character is a stunt, describing how you’re swinging on a chandelier to kick a bad guy in the face is also a stunt. It’s a nifty way to encourage the players to help out with descriptions.

          • Randy M says:

            7th Sea does with Drama Dice, given out by the GM for anything that makes the table laugh or cheer, usually things like swinging from chandeliers but by no means excluding witty banter.

            He’s right though that it goes against the game elements of accomplishing adventure goals through the player’s clever use of their characters resources and so rewarding such with in game bonuses is as disconnected as rewarding careful penmanship. But as a GM, you’ve got to work with what you have, and unless you want to hand out snacks as incentives, a modifier or reroll may be the next best choice–if you are okay with socially awkward or shy players being at a disadvantage at times.

          • bean says:

            Also, one thing that jumped out at me: “Rewarding good acting with a bonus is no different than giving someone a bonus for describing their axe swing particularly well.”

            That was the one section that I disagreed with. I think bonuses for good play should definitely be a thing, precisely to promote good play. In combat, this is tempered by the need to keep things moving. But if one of my players gave a particularly engaging description of his actions at the critical moment of a battle, I’d give him a bonus. If he started doing it every time he made an attack, I’d tell him to stop it. Don’t let the players farm the bonuses.
            Another thing would be to at least somewhat normalize the bonuses by player. It’s entirely possible that one player’s worst performance as a character is better than another player’s best as their character. If so, it would be unfair to always reward the first player and never the second, as the article quite rightly points out. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use rewards to encourage the second player when he does a particularly good job. And I’d even consider giving the first player more rewards justified, so long as it doesn’t get totally out of wack. You’re giving them out for making the game better.
            (Of course, better players should be held to a higher standard, within reason. I recently had my GM tell me that I could do better in describing a device my mad scientist was building. He was right, too, and I built one of the most amazingly impractical steam-powered walking thrones ever. It worked, too.)

          • Spookykou says:

            This article does not seem to address my biggest area of concern with Social Skills, and why I think there is so much ‘baggage’ around social skill checks.

            That’s all it is. Of course dice should be rolled if dice need to be rolled. And of course what the PC says and how they say it should have an impact. But it is no different than swinging on a chandelier or leaping onto a horse and riding it away or swinging a battle axe into an orc’s skull. Mostly.

            One of the big difference between types of actions is expectations. A fight is heavily abstracted, and I have no idea how to actually fight with swords, so a roll of the dice deciding if I hit or not does not play with my expectations. Most skill checks are kind of abstracted, and again, I don’t actually know how to pick a lock, and even if I did, I am probably not familiar with the kind of lock my character is trying to pick. There is almost no abstraction around most social interaction in game, and I am, compared to the other actions, an expert in how social interactions should play out. The fact that the system that is most likely to break my expectations by being resolved like other actions is the system I am least satisfied with having resolved like other actions, does not strike me as particularly stupid.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Spookykyou:

            However, handling social situations without skills means that you get a situation where a personable player can have CHA as their dump stat and still succeed in social situations, and a player who just isn’t a good talker can’t do anything to have a character who is a good talker. Which kind of destroys the “escapism” aspect of it.

          • bean says:

            The fact that the system that is most likely to break my expectations by being resolved like other actions is the system I am least satisfied with having resolved like other actions, does not strike me as particularly stupid.

            I think it’s good advice some of the time. Particularly if you have players with no social skills, whose characters thus also have no social skills (despite what it says on the sheet), “treat social interaction just like you would any other interaction with the game world” is really good advice. Likewise, if you have someone who has excellent social skills playing the half-orc barbarian, you need to remember that the character does not get the player’s social skills.
            That said, the converse is sometimes true. “I’m aware that your reality-altering level of Fast-Talk just showed that you talked your way into the formal ball half-naked and covered in blood. I’m not letting you get away with it unless you (the player) can come up with a story for how.” (It’s harder to scale social encounters in a lot of cases than it is to scale other challenges.)
            There are also some times when it’s just better to pitch the problem to the player’s level and let them reason it out. Depends on the group and setting.

          • Randy M says:

            There is almost no abstraction around most social interaction in game

            I think examples will be needed to bear this out. Say I, a middle aged male nerd, am playing a dashing duelist attempting to seduce a noble and secure her recommendation to see the queen. I gaze soulfully into the GM’s eyes and compliment him on the latest fashions being so aptly displayed.

            Nonetheless, I think there are a variety of levels of remove from my portrayal of the characters actions, and what those actions would be.
            -knowledge of what is likely to flatter a person of this station, ethnicity, personality, race, etc.
            -ability to pick up on non-verbal cues showing the effectiveness of my posture, tone, diction, etc., and to modify based on this feedback
            -the disconnect between the ability to make a seduction attempt around a table of fellow gamers and the effort that would be expended in the actual situation.

            “I’m aware that your reality-altering level of Fast-Talk just showed that you talked your way into the formal ball half-naked and covered in blood. I’m not letting you get away with it unless you (the player) can come up with a story for how.”

            What is happening in this example is the player and the DM negotiating whether an attempted action is at all possible. If you have a lot of time on your hands you can read his prior articles on resolving actions, the gist being that the DM decides if an action can succeed or fail, if there are consequences for failure, and only if so then are dice involved. “I don’t believe any level of fast-talk will get you away from the blood soaked corpse” is a perfectly reasonable GM response to a player attempting to talk their way out of murder. The player may well counter “I’ll point out the increase in goblin activity” and perhaps the GM would then deem the attempt plausible and ask for a roll.

          • Spookykou says:

            @dndnrsn

            I agree totally, the player skill versus character skill is a major contributor to the problems with social skills, and it is not something the article address particularly well either, at least in my experiences.

            Eventually, a player is going to accidentally present both an intention and an approach.

            The solution in the article for this problem does not fix the player vs character skill problem, and at least from my games, ‘Eventually’ should be replaced with, ‘Most of the time’.

            If I lead with my intention and approach, and I am good at arguing, then you will be heavily biased to assume that the NPC does not have a good reason to not help me, rewarding me for my player skill.

            Also, player skill versus character skill is really just a different form of the expectations problem. It is because some players actually have, and understand social skill that they are able to have differences in player skill around it, that they do not have in other skills

            In general the article seems to, wrongly, equivocate between social skill checks and other checks. Ignore the reasons why skill checks are actually very different from other checks, and assumes that just treating skill checks like other checks will solve everything. It does throw in some generally good DM advice like, call for fewer checks, but that is orthogonal to social skills.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Randy M

            I am talking about the amount of system abstraction.

            In a combat I go on my ‘turn’.

            I take a number of ‘actions’ as limited by my character sheet.

            I roll to hit with my attack, and assuming I hit, I roll damage, but what any of that actually means is not clear.

            Everyone has hit points, what even are those?

            The system has many built in abstractions.

            In a social interaction, you say what your character says(no abstraction), or what they try to say (some abstraction) and the DM responds in kind.

          • Randy M says:

            If I lead with my intention and approach, and I am good at arguing, then you will be heavily biased to assume that the NPC does not have a good reason to not help me, rewarding me for my player skill.

            In a social game with a human arbiter, arguing is always going to be an advantage (see lawyers). But a GM following this advice is not going to give preference to flowery prose over a bare description, provided the description is well reasoned and fitting to situation; that is, shows an approach likely to succeed.

            If the player is not able to articulate their goal or their approach in an interaction, the GM should just flat out ask them. “Are you trying to get the jewel from the wizard by playing on his sympathies, or just making small talk?”
            The GM will have an understanding of the NPC’s motivations and be able to determine the level of resistance they will put up–which may well be none.

          • Spookykou says:

            Randy M

            I play with a lawyer, when I was talking player skill I was actually talking about the ability to clearly articular reasons why the NPC would want to help you, not acting ability.

          • Randy M says:

            Sorry for the leap-frogging comment replies, but I’m interested in seeing where we disagree.

            It sounds like you aren’t talking about the level of abstraction, but the amount of rule mechanisms. Most of these are in place because A) timing is crucial in combat, less so in social situations, and B)combat is lethal, so players need/want to know how close they are to dying.

            Other places he has good examples of non-combat structures used to resolving encounter success or failure. I linked this one because I felt it dealt with the player vs character skill question dndnrsn raised.

          • Spookykou says:

            Randy M

            I view it as Abstraction based on the art definition of abstraction, the extent to which they look like reality.

            Social interactions in table top games mostly look like real social interactions in the real world, I have a social interaction in a table top game in almost exactly the same way that I have normal social interactions in the real world. The only key differences is that both people are acting, but the model is still very close to reality.

            Fighting in a table top game looks nothing like fighting in the real world, the things I do while fighting in a table top game are nothing like the ways I would fight in a real world situations.

            So the fighting system is heavily abstracted, in terms of the actions that I am taking relative to the actions that are happening in the story. In the event that I am speaking in character, then the actions I am taking are literally the same actions my character is taking.

          • Randy M says:

            I play with a lawyer, when I was talking player skill I was actually talking about the ability to clearly articular reasons why the NPC would want to help you, not acting ability.

            Right, I know, that’s why I said lawyer not actor. Basically, in a game about creatively solving problems, people good at solving problems are going to be advantaged. But they are advantaged because they are skilled at what they game sets out to test–problem solving, empathy, etc. Just like someone with good spatial awareness might excel at the tactical nature of combat, or someone with a good memory will be able to remember obscure feat that they took 6 months ago 😉

            In the event that I am speaking in character, then the actions I am taking are literally the same actions my character is taking.

            Except that they probably aren’t, because saying what you think the character would say and saying what you think the character would do both are missing a lot of the nuance of the action, which is what I tried to argue above. It’s not an identical level of abstraction, but I don’t think it is anywhere near as true to life as you imply. There is room in between for skill and chance, which is what the dice are for.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I respect Angry GM a lot, and he gives very good advice most of the time.

            Which is why I choose to follow his older advice about adjudicating actions over his (slightly) newer advice about social skill rolls.

            If my narration for a dungeon room includes a line about one wall being full of small holes and the players decide to break the wooden door off its hinges and use it as an improvised mantlet as they walk across, what DC do they have to hit to avoid the poison arrow trap? None, they succeed without a roll. Because they thought their way around the trap.

            If my narration for the throne room includes a mustachioed vizier whispering in the king’s ear and the players discretely offer him a suitable reward for his “great wisdom and mercy,” what DC do they have to hit to avoid being cast in chains? None, they succeed without a roll. Because they thought their way around the argument.

            A lot of the time, “good roleplaying” / thespianism involves taking actions in a social setting which can’t or are very unlikely to fail. Just as we reward the player’s ability to solve puzzles in the dungeon even if the character’s low intelligence might make the insight suspect, we can reward the player’s acting ability in town even if the character has a low charisma.

          • Spookykou says:

            Randy M

            Well, I know that sometime around 3e the game was intentionally designed to test system mastery, but I think that is a horrible design decision, so I don’t really support any aspects of DnD that reinforce that design idea, more generally just because a game wants to do something doesn’t mean it should.

            As to Table tops more generally as ‘creative problem solving’ games, I had never really thought of them that way, and it seems that many games range pretty wildly in the amount of creative problem solving involved in play. I would not have a problem with a game designed around that idea, in the same way that I do with system mastery. Still thinking of the game that way does not exactly deal with the player versus character skill problems of problem solving.

            Consider mage the awakening, which at least in the addition that I played, would allow for a mage who was, per the rules, smarter than any human person could ever be. My character is better than I could ever be at creative problem solving, how to we adjudicate that without breaking expectations?

          • Randy M says:

            I’m going to pointlessly prolong the argument with nigh-meaningless pedantry here, Dr, but that’s not thespianism, that’s role-playing. What you have is the players describing an approach, an intention, and the GM deciding that it can succeed, can’t fail, and so not asking them for a roll.

            Rewarding thespianism would be if you disallow the bribery attempt unless the players actually say the bit about “great wisdom and mercy” in the character’s voice, rather than saying they want to discretely offer the Vizier a benefit for putting in a good word.

          • Spookykou says:

            It’s not an identical level of abstraction

            My original point about abstraction was that combat was considerably more abstract, action skills are some what abstracted, and social skills have ‘almost no’ abstraction. Which plays with our expectations of outcomes, and makes social skills fundamentally different from other skills. While you might be correct in your assessment of the distance from reality to social checks. I still don’t really see a problem with my point, which is that the actions my character takes in combat are considerably more abstracted than the actions my character takes in social checks.

          • bean says:

            Just as we reward the player’s ability to solve puzzles in the dungeon even if the character’s low intelligence might make the insight suspect, we can reward the player’s acting ability in town even if the character has a low charisma.

            There are still ways around that. Let’s assume that the player of the barbarian is the one who tries to give the gift for the Vizer’s consideration. I’d have them make a roll of some sort to avoid calling the Vizer ‘your honor’ instead of ‘your grace’ or messing up the bribe in some other way. During our game yesterday, the GM made me roll to communicate my plan to the other players. (Not because my character wasn’t smart enough to solve the problem, but because he wasn’t good at communicating and I think the GM wanted to take my awesome chainsaw boat away.)

            @Spookykou

            My character is better than I could ever be at creative problem solving, how to we adjudicate that without breaking expectations?

            “Roll IQ to see if you get any insight into this.” I’ll often allow players to use skills/abilities to gain hints about the world that the character would see, but the player can’t.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Bean

            Yes that or something similar is how I would solve it also, but if Randy M is correct and the point of table top games is creative problem solving, then letting people roll to creative problem solve is defeating the ‘purpose’ of the game.

            I don’t actually think the purpose of table top games is creative problem solving, which makes player problem solving skill a problem, similar to acting skill (although considerably more useful).

          • Randy M says:

            Still thinking of the game that way does not exactly deal with the player versus character skill problems of problem solving.

            This is why when I described gaming above, I said “accomplishing adventure goals through the player’s clever use of their characters resources.”

            The guard won’t let you in to see the King. How do you proceed? There’s a myriad of responses; what sets them apart? Some are more likely to fit the DM’s idea of a response that leads to entry than others. This makes it sound very subjective, and it certainly is to an extent, but part of the game is establishing through play what reasonable expectations are for the various characters, p & non-p. An inconsistent DM is a bad DM for this very reason.

            Based on the problem the DM presents–either proactively or reactively–some of the responses the players give will be more likely to get them what they want than others. Clever players–players who recall the precedence of the game better, mentally simulate the game world better, are better able to discern the motivations of NPC’s and choose their approach–they will have an advantage here. It is inevitable in the same way that more athletic people have an advantage in sports.

            (None of this is to say that “solving problems” is the only way to have fun in RPG’s! Some people just like to try crazy stuff or hang-out or what have you.)

            The bit I said about remembering the feat you took was tongue-in-cheek, but will always be true in any detailed game, even if not designed for it.

          • Spookykou says:

            Randy M

            These are ‘features’ of table top games for sure, but I am not sure to what extent they are desirable.

            My friend is currently writing a table top game with a core design axiom to minimize the extent to which the GM adjudicates things in that way, because they think combat (where the GM does almost no adjudicating of this kind, you don’t ask if you can swing your axe in most grid games, more evidence that social actions=\=other actions) is the best part of the game, and want to design a skill and social system to match.

            We have also discussed at length ways to try and minimize the most egregious player skill disparities, and generally consider them to be problems of systems.

            I think this is getting back to what I first said,

            This article does not seem to address my biggest area of concern with Social Skills,

            As I see it a lot of the issues people have with social skills grow out of these deeper fundamental game design elements of the social system compared to other systems. They are very real problems that have potential answers. The article seems to say ‘the problems people have with social actions are stupid, just run them like other actions’. Which to me, mostly looks like bad advice from somebody who just does not understand the problems. A physicist solution to the problems of a different discipline. That being said Bean is right about it being good advice for shy players, and as I said before, some of the advice is just general good DMing advice.

          • bean says:

            @Spookykou
            I don’t agree that problem-solving is the whole point of tabletop RPGs either, although it might depend on how we define problem-solving. Obviously, it would be a boring game where all challenges were just straight-up dice rolls, and you got very few choices. But on the other hand, it would be annoying if you couldn’t use your character’s skills to help you out, and boring if all plans went perfectly, except for acts of GM. Some of my fondest memories are of times when the dice rolled weirdly, and we (pardon the pun) rolled with it.
            And to some extent, social interaction is a problem to be solved, too. The point is to not disadvantage players who have poor skills too badly, just as you’d allow someone with poor non-social problem solving skills to use the character’s skills to compensate for their own lack.

          • Randy M says:

            That sounds interesting. Just know that eliminating the DM’s adjudication will not necessarily eliminate the impact of player skill–chess has no DM, and skill is of course brought the fore.

            Also, there are plenty of times in combat, especially with earlier editions, where the DM might well provide ‘common-sense’ restrictions on your actions–for instance, if you are fighting in a tunnel, or on horseback, he may call for a different weapon or skill to be used or apply modifiers.

            The DM is the filter through which the workings of the world are presented to the players. Psychology is less refined than physics; in the same way, NPC interactions are more subjective than jumping a chasm.
            (although RPGs may owe more to narrative conventions than human psychology!)

            The article seems to say ‘the problems people have with social actions are stupid, just run them like other actions’. Which to me, mostly looks like bad advice

            I find the advice reasonable and useful. Maybe that is because I still don’t really see what you are objecting to–that is, what about the action resolution do you find does not translate to social encounters? I must have glossed over the rationale. I will try to reread later.

            @bean

            I don’t agree that problem-solving is the whole point of tabletop RPGs either, although it might depend on how we define problem-solving.

            I am using the term broadly; to the extent the characters are trying to accomplish anything, there is problem solving. Sometimes many paths will work, some times there are very few or only one path. But unless anything they say will get them to the next and only possible scene, they are solving problems, ranging from “Find the dungeon exit” to “figure out where the theives guild is in the city” to “figure out what changes we can make in the past to prevent the apocalypse” to, of course, “what combat tactics will let us survive the giant spiders with the most HP left?

          • bean says:

            My friend is currently writing a table top game with a core design axiom to minimize the extent to which the GM adjudicates things in that way, because they think combat (where the GM does almost no adjudicating of this kind, you don’t ask if you can swing your axe in most grid games, more evidence that social actions=\=other actions) is the best part of the game, and want to design a skill and social system to match.

            I’m not sure that will work. Combat is a case where the GM has largely pre-adjucated a lot of the stuff like ‘can I hit him with an axe’ by how the map is set up. I’m sure there have been times every GM has to step in and say ‘the rules are being stupid here, and we’re not going to use them’. Randy made the rest of the points I would have made.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Bean

            I don’t particularly enjoy his game and I think that some amount of negotiated story telling is important to the fun of table top games. I brought him up primarily to illustrate that, while negotiating with the DM is currently a product of the system as it is designed, I don’t think that fact alone means that we can’t try and improve or change the nature of those negotiations.

            The method of control he uses is pretty simple though, you just have the DM call for all checks. Between combat encounter you will have N out of combat ‘encounters’ where dice will be needed to resolve issues to move the story along, the checks that can be used to overcome those encounters are predetermined by the DM. Other things you do will fall into the ‘trying to find a black smith’ category of non-checks.

            There are several guiding principles behind this idea, first that if a player is picking up the dice it should be a meaningful choice with rewards and consequences, second it tries to help reduce the improv burden on the DM(The game is designed to be what he would want from an ideal game, both as a player and as a DM) while keeping in line with the first goal, third it tries to deal with the general mother may I/pixel bitching problems that often seem to crop up in out of combat interactions.

            This creates a few obvious problems that make his game different from DnD, primarily that stories can’t branch and grow in response to the players, which I view as a serious loss. But I can appreciate all of his complaints about out of combat stuff, and if as he says, he only has fun in combat then I can understand the design goals, at least from that perspective.

            Randy M

            To try and put a finer point on my critique.

            I normally think of table top games as being made of three systems for adjudicating player actions. The combat system, the ‘action skills’ system(skills that perform action, like lock picking), and the social system. I started playing DnD in 3, and have played a pretty wide range of other table tops since then, and most of them can be modeled this way.

            Now lets think about the social system in DnD. Consider that a very large number of people were confronted with a combat system, an action skills system, and a social system, when they first picked up DnD. That all these various groups of players all turned out slightly differently, they mostly didn’t understand how grapple worked, but they otherwise kept with the combat system as written. They mostly kept with the action skill system as written even if they called for too many stealth checks. Then they all got to the Social system, and a lot of those players jumped ship, stopped using the rules altogether and just tried to figure it out for themselves.

            Why?

            The Social System in DnD is ‘bad’, for a number of reasons, and for a lot of players I imagine the advice ‘Just use the system that every other player of the game independently stopped using’ is not terribly helpful, to then compound this with not even trying to understand why everyone stopped using it makes me very skeptical of the authors understanding of the issue.

            The primary problems that I see with the social system all revolve around player expectations, DM negotiations, and player versus character skill, all of these issues also play into each other.

            I went over expectations in my first comment, but basically of the three systems the Social System is most likely to break our expectations.

            The social system is more variable on DM negotiation than any other system. (I think no negotiation and all negotiation are both bad, I think all players probably have slightly different levels of DM negotiation that is ideal to them, and the social system is most susceptible to wild shifts in the amount of DM negotiation, from action to action.)

            The social system is where player versus character competency is most noticeable (Or maybe tied with ‘planning’ but I don’t think that comes up as often)

            To be clear, I am not saying that I know how to fix these problems. I have spent a lot of time thinking about them and I have a few tweaks and house rules but no clear solution. My point from the beginning was that I was not a fan of the article because it does not seem to address any of these issues particularly well, in advice or acknowledgment. I do admit that it has some generally good DM advice like calling for fewer checks, but that is orthogonal to social interactions, and has a lot more to do with the importance of picking up the dice, and just plain old probability, if you make the rogue take ten stealth checks to get across the room, even if they are amazing at stealth they will probably fail, bad DM bad!

          • dndnrsn says:

            Whoa, I step away for one minute, and…

            Some games have tried to make more involved social systems, making them more like combat. The Game of Thrones RPG did. I think it failed, because the system was badly designed in a lot of ways (it devolved to several people shouting at one person to destroy their “social HP”, “wounds” from social combat didn’t harm you physically but physical wounds did harm you socially, etc). Also, it was easily broken – you could make a character who, by the mechanics, could get anyone to be completely devoted to them in a few rolls.

            The issue of player problem-solving was brought above. In a game I’m playing I bought my character up from average to above-average intelligence using XP, mostly because I felt that I was playing him out-of-character for someone of average intelligence. Likewise, I prefer when running a game that PCs be of above-average intelligence, because my players are, and I honestly don’t think they’re going to consistently roleplay as someone significantly dumber than themselves.

            Of course, some people define roleplaying as “acting” whereas I define it based on decision-making. I’m going to give zero bonuses for roleplaying to someone who’s supposed to be a brave warrior who always ensures they’re in the safest location in combat.

          • bean says:

            Then they all got to the Social system, and a lot of those players jumped ship, stopped using the rules altogether and just tried to figure it out for themselves.

            Why?

            I can think of two reasons why, neither of which is particularly good. First, a lot of people didn’t pick up 3/3.5 (or later editions) ex nihlo. AIUI, 1e/2e didn’t really have the social skills system at all, leaving it all down to players playing it out directly. This pattern carried over when they started with games that did have decent social systems, and got passed on to new players joining those groups. I did start on my own, and basically everyone I played with in my first 8 or so years of gaming started with 3.5 rulebooks, and nothing else, and I still game with a couple of them. We do tend to run social stuff broadly like it is written. Make the player talk a bit, then roll.
            Second, players with good social skills will tend to want to use in-person skills instead of in-character skills. These people are the ones who are best able to convince the rest of the group to go along with them, even if the result isn’t actually optimal from an abstract perspective.

          • Spookykou says:

            @dndnrsn

            Yes I played a few games of that, I have tried other games that do that as well, the edition of exalted I played also had social combat. You also have the other direction, WoD games combat is normally just a skill system, the same as their social systems.

            These attempts to modulate the amount of mechanics around the various systems does not seem to do much to solve the ‘problem’ with social systems in table top games, and I don’t think they do much to address my three stated ‘problems’ either.

        • Spookykou says:

          I doubt this is what you intended, but a major problem I had with VII was Abrams inability or unwillingness to address distance. Everyone is just instantly anywhere they want to be with no travel time, or in other words, the galaxy feels too small.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Actually that was a big part of my issue with the film.

            The scene that best summed up my feeling was when Rey looked up from Takodana(?) and saw all the planets Starkiller Base’s lasers destroyed hanging in the sky. Each one was bigger than Earth’s moon and we know for a fact that Coruscant at least was the better part of half a galaxy away. I would have forgiven it as a force-vision except that we watch the beams flying through space.

          • lhn says:

            While this wasn’t made especially clear in the movie, apparently the capital world destroyed by Starkiller Base wasn’t supposed to be Coruscant.

        • bean says:

          It succeeded, partially, but also faced the problem that the more rules you add the weirder unintended consequences you get.

          I don’t think that was because of how they did skills. I find it difficult to conceive of a system that doesn’t have some generic mechanism for doing mundane things, usually called ‘skills’. (Disclaimer: Started with 3.5/D20 Star Wars, have looked at lots of different systems, seriously played GURPS and FATE, haven’t touched a 1e/2e rulebook in 10+ years and never played either).
          The problem, best illustrated by Pun-Pun is that they had too many different rules for special things. Some of this was a result of the need to print lots of sourcebooks. Some of it was the lack of general-purpose tools for dealing with problems (GURPS is an example of having these tools) which lead to a fair bit of reinventing the wheel, usually with hilarious gaps.
          I’ve come to the conclusion that any specific task in an RPG should almost always be able to be done well with 4 or fewer sourcebooks. Not always the same books, depending on the task, but you shouldn’t have to hunt through every sourcebook to do a thing you want to do, either. Well would be defined as ‘90% as good as the solution found by the min-maxer who does go through every book in 90% of the cases’ or something of that nature. Star Wars Saga and D&D were both horrible about this, Star Wars D20 pre-Saga and GURPS are pretty good.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Most of the weirdness had more to do with feats than with skills, now that I think of it.

            The “modular” nature of the d20 system as a whole meant things could be combined in ways they didn’t predict.

          • bean says:

            Most of the weirdness had more to do with feats than with skills, now that I think of it.

            It was almost always a combination of feats and special abilities. Usually from about 4 books published over 7 years and at least one special campaign setting.

            The “modular” nature of the d20 system as a whole meant things could be combined in ways they didn’t predict.

            Most definitely. That’s why I tend to favor systems which focus on effects instead of causes. GURPS is one of the better-known examples of this. It’s very rare that you find an ability you can’t model using the core books, which means that introducing new things can be done without adding rules. That in turn means that the ruleset stays compact and the number of possible combinations stays small and reasonably testable.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I really like Call of Cthulhu because, as crummy as its system is, it’s relatively closed to such nonsense.

    • Wency says:

      Doesn’t every OSR system rework THACO?

      And yes, THACO isn’t rocket science, but it’s arbitrary and unintuitive to a greater degree than later systems. Some people take pride in saying “This unintuitive thing is totally intuitive to me, possibly because my brain is better.” Other people are intellectually lazy or just like to criticize, so they exaggerate the difficulty of understanding unintuitive things. That’s all there is to THACO arguments. THACO is usable, easily improved upon, and has little effect on fun either way.

      I personally borrowed a lot of AKCS and bolted it onto D&D 5e, to good effect. I would say it’s a good system for people who value internal consistency in their fantasy. If I encounter an economy that doesn’t make sense at even a cursory level, or NPCs have resources that are wildly inconsistent, it hurts my own suspension of disbelief and fun. Other people couldn’t give two licks about these things and will sacrifice all logic to Rule of Cool. AKCS is very much for the first group. You don’t need to model everything out though — just crunch a few numbers when trying to figure out if something makes sense.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Yeah, this is a better way of saying what I was trying to say. THAC0 was a weird system, and I can’t decide how they decided to make AC a lower-is-better system, then deal with it using THAC0, but it wasn’t that hard to actually deal with.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      I vote A. Rules are about aesthetic and shared understanding as much as resolution, and it’s easier to patch overcomplicated mechanics than rediscover or reinvent it from scratch if you’ve found a bit you like.

      Besides, kitbashing is exactly what the OS in OSR is all about.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Thanks, actually I think I’m going for A in the end.

        Rules Cyclopedia’s out-of-the-box econ rules are elegantly simply and not desperately crying out for improvement, although I still have ACKS’ tables to fall back on if I desperately need them.

        I’m planning on using the Weapon Feats system from Dark Dungeons, plus ACKS’ Attack Throws in place of THAC0 (THAC0-9 if you’re curious). I’ll either use a modified version of Dark Dungeons’ Skills (roll over 20-Ability, +1 on the roll per rank) or ACKS’ Profciencies (11+, -4 per rank), but in either case I’m stripping out the lists and associated fiddly rules. Also going to let Thieves actually do something, with an automatic success on Thief Skills if they put in a full 10min Turn for the attempt (1/3rd movement speed) and had a nonzero chance of success.

    • hellahexi says:

      A little late to the party (heh), but I vote “C.” It seems to make little sense to discard THAC0 for being fiddly and unintuitive, then turn around and implement a fiddly world-building system.

      I grew up with 1E, went through to 3.5, then into Pathfinder, because at the time I liked the rules-dense roll-for-every-consequence approach. It felt like verisimilitude. But what it was really doing was driving off players for whom exhaustive system-mastery was not a draw to the game, and promoted a fundamental distrust of the GM.

      I like “rulings, not rules” because it seems that what a lot of the rules-intense systems are designed to do is provide a faux-objective way of allowing certain types of system-proficient players to force the game in their preferred direction: “Hey, it says I can do this, and I have this maxed stat, so that’s what going to happen.” If someone is going to direct where the game is going to go, I want that person to be the GM; that’s literally the job description. If you don’t like where the GM is taking your game, your problem is with the person, not the system.

      That being said, there is a special place in my heart (still) for fiddly little tables and randomness. No, I don’t want to constantly update the commodities prices in each city of my game (if I had the patience for that, I’d be selling actual commodity futures, rather than figuring out a realistic price for barley in pre-Cataclysm Ergoth). But where I come from, random tables are less for slavish adherence than they are spurs for creativity. Even the most creative among us occasionally draw a blank when put on the spot, and sometimes a little jumpstart helps. “Hmm. *rolls* ‘The lich-king is awakening’ and ‘it has been unusually rainy in the Silt Barrens.’ What’s the connection?” gets you a lot closer to an emergent, interesting world than trying to gazetteer every detail of a campaign before you’ve played the first session.

      Also, shamelessly, my own OSR-adjacent blog. I’m still giving away copies of the first issue of the absconder, until my stamps run out.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Thanks for the links. I’ve always loved “rumor tables” and the like, so just on the front page I’m already happy.

        And yeah, I love the bottom-up detail in ACKS but it becomes a headache sometimes. If anyone wants to do arbitrage trading I can bust out the economy tables but I don’t want to have to think about them when players are bringing wagonfulls of miscellaneous treasure back from a dungeon or when I’m drawing my hexmaps.

        • hellahexi says:

          Thank you! Happy to be useful.

          I understand the joy of building a detailed, fully-consistent setting. I love(d) doing so, until I gradually realized that players don’t care. It’s like the guy who shows up to roll a character in your game, and brings along his 10-page typewritten background for the character. Good on ya, but no one’s going to read it. Now I just skip most of the work unless I know the players are going to directly interact with it.

          • Randy M says:

            I made a really in depth hex crawl setting a couple years back, and despite getting some playtime very little of it was ever actually used.

            My players like me just straight up presenting them plots to ignore, rather than making them search in the wilderness for plots to ignore.

          • hellahexi says:

            My players like me just straight up presenting them plots to ignore, rather than making them search in the wilderness for plots to ignore.

            And they wonder why quantum ogres are endemic to these parts.

          • dndnrsn says:

            How do you predict what they’re going to interact with, though? Maybe my players are just horrible people, as am I, but the default “this NPC is stonewalling me!” reaction is “let’s burgle his house!”

          • andrewflicker says:

            I’m not hellahexi, but I “solve” that by A) Getting good at improve, and B) pre-designing a few layouts, character concepts, small piles of wealth, etc., that can be used or inserted ad-hoc when the narrative needs material.

            For instance, I’ve got a butler I designed in my head a while ago squirelled away in case they ever break into an opulent manor I’m unprepared for.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Randy M,

            I’m going to recommend hellahexl’s quantum ogres.

            One of the best DMing tricks I ever learned was to recycle my unused dungeons and encounters. If the players don’t see a gimmick room, there’s no reason that room can’t show up again in the next dungeon they enter. Sometimes you can reuse entire adventures if the original was derailed early enough.

            You have to get something back for prep time, there’s too little of it to waste by throwing out unused content.

          • hellahexi says:

            Note, the quantum ogres do get a bad rap when used as a tool for “railroading”* players. However, they are tremendously useful for keeping a game going in a moderately well-prepared manner.

            * Scare-quotes because, from the player side of things, I don’t mind a bit of railroading. I’ll take it over everyone sitting around all session trying to figure out what to do, only to settle on a plan the GM hasn’t prepared and ends up slapdash.

          • dndnrsn says:

            As I understand it, the “quantum ogres” is a reference to a game with a rather … strange … way of generating random encounters based on player actions?

            I’ve found one way to deal with improvised stuff (beyond what has already been described – reuse stuff, when in doubt throw them some red meat, etc) is to blatantly pander to your group whenever you need to fill space.

            It’s not hard to figure out what individual players are looking for, and giving them something that fulfills that (without actually being important in any way) is a great way to keep them happy. Does one player love running idiot noblemen and another sleazy con men, and they have the according characters? The market scene that you spitball as you compensate for them almost breaking your campaign should include a way for the nobleman to show off his excellent taste in wine and ermine robes as he tosses money around like a fool, and let the con man run a game of three-card monte.

            Of course, “know what your players want and give it to them, but make them work for it” is fairly basic stuff but one a lot of people seem to miss.

          • hellahexi says:

            The quantum ogre refers to a technique wherein a GM attempts to disguise a railroad-style adventure with a veneer of player choice.

            For example, say the overarching conceit of your dungeon requires that the PCs run into a certain ogre at a specific time. But you want to hide this fact to give the illusion of player agency. So you present three doorways; however, no matter which one the players choose, they’re going to face your ogre on the other side.

            As expected, players catch wise to this pretty quickly. What we’re talking about upthread is a little different in (what I think is) a material way: keeping a file of unused rooms/locations/delves/scenes/NPCs that for whatever reason haven’t been used yet, and using this file to fill in blank spots in your adventures when your players catch you unprepared with their unexpected decisions.

          • Randy M says:

            So you present three doorways

            As an aside, can I point out that choices devoid of context are meaningless? The three doorways should always have some kind of distinguishing characteristic; some sound in the distance, or smell, or sign, or variations in lighting, etc. Otherwise they don’t really have any sense of having figured anything out or even had any meaningful impact on the choice that ensues beyond being a random number generator.

            If down the corridor smelling of cooked meat were three ogres around a campfire, and down the corridor with sounds of battle were three ogres hitting a practice dummy, and down the corridor with the growling sound were three snoring ogres, it seems much less egregious.

          • bean says:

            As I understand it, the “quantum ogres” is a reference to a game with a rather … strange … way of generating random encounters based on player actions?

            Quantum Ogre is the idea that when the player comes to a fork in the road, and whichever way they go, they find an ogre waiting for them. The idea is that you’re denying the players agency because the same thing will happen no matter which side they pick.
            Obviously, if the players have no agency, then you’re doing something wrong. The weak version is standard GM technique. There are two different paths across the desert. The initial random encounter will be the same regardless of which path the players take. If they go north, they find that they’re short of water. If they go south, they run into slavers. The first encounter is ‘quantum’, but I don’t think most people would find it objectionable. It’s just cutting down on how much flavor you have to write.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I was thinking of “Quantum Bears”, which is a derogatory term on the internet for a phenomenon in the game Apocalypse World. Never played it, but the descriptions of its rules system sound fairly odd.

          • Spookykou says:

            In my early days as a DM I would often design ‘rooms’ with monsters, traps, or important NPCs written up and then have the players run into them, the paths they took through an ephemeral dungeon would change the order they ran into these ‘rooms’, but they still always ran into all of them eventually. My players would call it Schrodinger’s dungeon, and it seems to kind of blur the lines between quantum ogres and reusing old material.

            One of my players in particular felt that any reusing of skipped material wasn’t ‘fair play’ because the choices the players made, resulted in them passing that encounter. They admit that its obviously not easy to know when somebody is reusing skipped material, but they didn’t like knowing about it when it happened.

            I wonder, since reading this thread I think most people here feel that reusing skipped stuff is ok, but quantum ogre is, less ok, is there some number of encounters, or some period of time that has to pass, before it is ok to reuse content that your players skipped?

          • bean says:

            I wonder, since reading this thread I think most people here feel that reusing skipped stuff is ok, but quantum ogre is, less ok, is there some number of encounters, or some period of time that has to pass, before it is ok to reuse content that your players skipped?

            Depends. I know that’s not helpful, but I can’t think of hard and fast rules.
            The thing I would find most annoying as a player in those situations is the knowledge that I ran into all of your prepared rooms every time. “You’re forcing me to sit through everything you prepared!” (Actually, most annoying would be forcing in rooms where they didn’t belong, and knowing that I hit all of them would be second.) If you used 75% or so on a typical crawl, that seems like it would be OK.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ bean
            is there some number of encounters, or some period of time that has to pass, before it is ok to reuse content that your players skipped?

            First, I’d consider –

            – How do they know it was skipped? …. Maybe the DM acted guilty, they caught zim shuffling notes.

            – Did they get some clue or information that made them choose to avoid it? …. Okay, on first peek into the cavern chamber, they smell ogre and see an ogre fighting a pig. After adventures elsewhere, they wander back to a different view of the same chamber and the ogre smell is even worse; peeking in, they see a campfire where the pig is roasting the ogre on a spit. Something has changed, the situation they skipped has progressed without them. Or, they refuse to rescue a cute puppy; then later elsewhere when they approach the Archvillain’s lair, the puppy attacks them and summons the Archvillain, whose watchdog he is. The puppy is not as helpless as they thought. There’s a surprise between the two chances to encounter the same pig or puppy that the DM wants.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I like “rulings, not rules” because it seems that what a lot of the rules-intense systems are designed to do is provide a faux-objective way of allowing certain types of system-proficient players to force the game in their preferred direction: “Hey, it says I can do this, and I have this maxed stat, so that’s what going to happen.” If someone is going to direct where the game is going to go, I want that person to be the GM; that’s literally the job description. If you don’t like where the GM is taking your game, your problem is with the person, not the system.

        But this encourages lazy adventure design. I have mostly been running published Call of Cthulhu campaigns lately, so I’ve been reading through a lot of adventures and campaigns. Beyond realizing that the reputation that Cthulhu has for a high standard of published material is kind of undeserved (a lot of the stuff is pure crap or simply uninspired; I would guess that the reputation comes largely from a handful of really good products), one thing that has struck me is that a lot of adventures assume that players are really predictable. They’re not. When I run published adventures, the #1 thing I find myself changing (beyond NPC stats, etc) is I have to add a lot of stuff that I know my players will go looking for that is just glossed over in the adventure (eg, the bad guy has a house in the city – but there’s no floor plan, no idea of what’s there, or it’s just assumed the PCs aren’t going to try and ambush the bad guy and firebomb his limo or whatever), and cut out a lot of red herrings that I know will waste sessions. I also remove pretty much anything where NPCs succeed without rolling, where “this happens and the PCs just watch” occurs, etc.

        If a player has a great Climb skill, and wants to use it to climb up a mountain face and approach the Fortress of Evil from a direction other than the one the adventure has planned out, “design an adventure that bends instead of breaking” is the right solution, not “well, you have climbed similar cliffs before, but you can’t climb this one, rulings, not rules!” or “play a game without a proper Climb skill.” This is one reason I dislike running D&D and high-powered stuff in general – it makes it a lot harder to predict what the PCs do, and there’s a lot more they can do. It also means that the bad guys are harder to run – usually, a GM is not going to run NPCs as to-the-hilt using every power available to them, and the more power they have, the more suspension of disbelief is required.

        It’s the job of the GM to direct what happens, but “direct” is different from “dictate”. Stuff like this annoys me in video games, but in tabletop games, where part of the advantage is that a competent GM should be able to improvise in response to the players being unpredictable, it infuriates me when I’m playing, so I avoid it when I’m running a game.

        Masks of Nyarlathotep is usually at the top of “best published adventure/campaign” lists, and one of the reasons for that is it is really good at bending without breaking. There are multiple major villains, and the campaign does not break if the players get lucky or come up with a clever plan and kill one unexpectedly.

        As a player, what I love is coming up with a plan that lets the party succeed against all odds by “picking a third option” or whatever. As a GM, I can’t just say “sorry guys can’t do that nope”.

        • hellahexi says:

          I think we’re arguing in the same direction. “Bend, not break” is something that I think the retroclones and the OSR do well, and is something we should encourage.

          To use your example: say the PCs are breaking into the mountain fortress, and you’ve lovingly mapped it out, with a fortified entrance and a secret sally port, and your PCs want to do something else. With rules that lay out, in multipage splatbook-level detail, the mechanics of rock climbing, you run into the situation where, if none of the PCs have “Climb” skill, the GM is forced strongly incentivized to say “Nope, can’t do it.” But with a “rulings, not rules” approach, the appropriate response to the idea is, “Huh. Okay. Tell me how you do it,” and if it makes sense, it happens.

          Sure, sometimes you have to say “no.” But those times are surprisingly infrequent. “Yes, and . . . ” usually works. I think we all want, faced with our hypothetical adventure, players to think “climb up the cliff . . . bribe the gatewatch . . . poison the well . . . fire the rooftops . . . hide in the haywagon . . . anything but attack the gate!” And this creativity can spring from any rules system. But when you don’t have explicit rules governing every option, it’s a lot easier to think outside of the (rules) box.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I find the opposite. Knowing exactly what my players can do – this guy can sneak and climb, she is great at dealing with mechanical stuff and lockpicking, third PC is good at talking and has some medical abilities, and here are their combat abilities – lets me have some prediction of what they might do.

            Of course, I tend to be a fairly controlling GM – premade PCs, guidelines on what characters you can build, “no you can’t nerf the skills relative to your character’s actual job to put more points in Shotgun”, etc – and when I’m a player I am prone to “OK group huddle people let’s all put points in Stealth so I’m not the only one who can do that sort of thing”.

            Ruling to a given situation means the rules aren’t predictable for the players. As the game PARANOIA notes, more rules give more power to players. I personally like having more power for players, even when running the game. Just means I have to keep it in mind.

            I think where 3rd ed went wrong is that it simply got higher and higher power. Not just with splatbook power creep – out of the box PCs were more powerful than they were in 2nd ed. With something lower-power it’s pretty easy to predict most of the things they might do.

          • hellahexi says:

            Premade PCs? Now that’s interesting.

          • bean says:

            I’m really not getting this. It’s a rare system indeed that doesn’t allow untrained climbing. As the GM, you always have the option of looking at those pages, thinking for a few moments, then saying ‘well, you’re probably going to die because that cliff is really steep’ or ‘yes, this seems like something you can probably do without serious technical climbing, roll at +4’. I can’t count the number of times during my GURPS games (a system famous for having rules for nearly everything) that I glanced at the relevant rules and then said ‘roll at +2’, even if that wasn’t quite right.
            One of the advantages of having rules for everything is that it’s reasonably predictable for the players. Even if the GM isn’t consulting all of the rules all of the time, you don’t have wild swings in ability based on how he is feeling that day.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I usually ask a player “hey, what kind of character do you want to be?” Then once I’ve figured that out for everyone in the party, I make the characters, being sure to provide a broad range of skills across the party, with enough overlap that there’s never only one character with a vital skill, and rarely only one with a useful but optional skill.
            This is what I did for the current campaign I’m running – let everyone decide “this is what I want to be”, wrote up the stats, skills, equipment, and a character description, let them come up with a name, and let them shuffle some skill points around. Or I’ll allocate most of a character’s skill points, but not all of them, so there’s a general character outline but they can customize a bit.

            It is probably relevant that it has been a long time since I played or ran a game with character classes or anything like that. I prefer systems where characters are mostly made by selecting skills and distributing points among them. Want to be a medic? Take medical skills – but probably everyone will be able to have a 1/4 to 1/3 shot at stopping bleeding. Your character is a Professor of Classics at old MU? You won’t be the only one with Archaeology, History, Library Use, and some dead languages, but that will be your wheelhouse.

            The GM making the characters lets them tailor them to the adventure – the last time I played a class-based game (Pathfinder) I made an illusionist I really liked … only to find that the adventure was mostly fighting undead, meaning I was next to useless in combat. Fun!

            I dislike class-based systems in general, because they tend to punish players for wanting to make idiosyncratic characters: in Call of Cthulhu you can play an MU classics professor who boxed and wrestled back in high school and university (Punch, Grapple, Martial Arts) or is an avid deer hunter (Listen, Navigate, Sneak, Spot Hidden, Track, Rifle) without getting punished for taking cross-class skills or whatever.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean:

            You know, I stand corrected. I had remembered climbing as a Rogue special ability in 2nd ed, but later on in the book there’s a system for climbing.

            A better example would be the rules for finding traps, where nobody except Rogues could actually get better at the skill, as far as I can tell.

          • hellahexi says:

            That’s interesting. A long way back I adminned on a D&D MUSH, and we had a system where you could chargen a character, or you could choose a premade from a variety we had. I can’t recall anyone ever having opted for a premade. That (long-ago, likely inapplicable) example has stuck with me, and I haven’t tried premades since.

            I can see the appeal, it just wouldn’t occur to me. I always assume the work will be on the GM’s side of the table: if I wind up with a party of a fighter, two rangers, and a paladin, I take it as a strong clue as to what my players are looking for in a game, and adjust adventures accordingly.

          • Randy M says:

            I used pre-made characters for a one shot of 7th Sea I ran couple years back. It was neat in that I could intertwine all the backgrounds and have a variety of archetypes represented, and since it wasn’t going to be a long campaign it wouldn’t have been worth the time to guide everyone through the chargen process.

          • bean says:

            @dndnrsn
            I’ll be the first to admit a strong preference for point-buy over classed systems. The characters are so much more interesting. My favorite was a GURPS character who was supposed to be a Bard/mastermind, but when I ran out of points, the Bard bit got dropped. Never would have happened in D&D, but I really liked the character.

            That said, classed systems are better for new players, as they often aren’t very good at character concepts.
            Premades can help deal with this, particularly if you go the template route and give them some freedom to play with the edges of the character.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hellahexi:

            I guess part of the reason I dislike D&D is the requirement to have party balance, and strong roles in combat. Again, I like low-power stuff, where “50 points in combat skills” is good enough to not instantly die or sit there bored as everyone else has all the fun.

            I like premades because it means a lot less worrying about “oh jeez, the players are going to be in Vietnam for a few sessions, and none speak Vietnamese – are they going to drag some poor tour guide into the Cavern of Unspeakable Horrors underneath the old French rubber plantation?” – I just hand the player who said “I want to be an academic” Professor Suzanne Nguyen, Assistant Professor in the Literature department at Miskatonic, expert on Southeast Asian postcolonial literature with a special interest in postwar Vietnamese-American memoir. Her general academic skills are going to be useful throughout the campaign, she’s fluent in Vietnamese, can get by in French, and she was a nationally-ranked fencer back in undergrad so she’s got the Sword skill. Boom, done. A lot better than “hey, make any characters you like, but somebody should probably be able to speak Vietnamese”.

            @bean:

            Yeah, it makes more interesting characters. The Warhammer 40k RPGs are even more egregious than D&D – diverting from the most basic character archetype is heavily punished, meaning that your RPG characters end up being about as interesting as a HQ selection who is one miniature out of dozens or more in the wargame.

          • hellahexi says:

            @dndnrsn

            You’re making me want to play at your table!

          • dndnrsn says:

            Ha, thanks.

            More than “this is how you run a game”the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that consistency beats everything else. Between me and the other guy who runs something, a 4 hour weekly session is almost always guaranteed. The first thing I did with this group was say “you can only be a part of this if you’re available at such-and-such a time every week”. So far the group has been going for about three years, meeting almost every week … far better than my previous experience, where it usually came down to me (even if I wasn’t running the game) having to coordinate 4-6 people meeting at irregular times.

          • bean says:

            You’re making me want to play at your table!

            Hmmm.
            Now I’m starting to speculate on doing an online game with people from here, although probably a short one. Anyone else interested, at least in the abstract?

            More than “this is how you run a game”the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that consistency beats everything else.

            I’ll second this strongly. The times when the game has gone downhill have usually been those when we got irregular in our sessions.

          • Randy M says:

            …having to coordinate 4-6 people meeting at irregular times.

            Man, ain’t it the truth. My friends suggested starting another campaign (rather than our usual MtG/boardgame night). I host & DM for one session, then we can’t manage to get more than 2/5 at the same time for like 3 months.
            (Had a pretty awesome time traveling campaign sketched out, too.)

          • Skivverus says:

            Now I’m starting to speculate on doing an online game with people from here, although probably a short one. Anyone else interested, at least in the abstract?

            Hell yes.

            Granted, most of my gaming hasn’t been the tabletop variety, but I’ve been working on that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean:

            In theory, I’d be down, but it would depend on scheduling and so forth.

            In my past experience, the #1 campaign killer was having more than one person involved in running a campaign. #2 being “Hey, I’ve got this cool idea for another campaign, let’s run both” from someone already involved in running the ongoing campaign. #3 being player interaction problems. Or maybe swap 2 and 3. Irregularity comes from those factors.

            Eventually I decided I was going to lay down the law, recruit a new group, and settle on a set time every week. There are two of us running two separate games, and we play to different strengths: I’m good at dealing with published adventures and intensive preparation, while he’s good at having something original on the table every week. It works out.

            @Randy M:

            This is one thing I really like about systems where players are jack-of-all-trades. 2 players can handle an adventure scaled to them. Whereas if you need that meat shield/sneaky/glass cannon/healer combination…

          • bean says:

            I’m going to do a new post on the possibility of a group from here doing a game, to make threading and such easier.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M:

            Aha, that’s a problem, then.

            The rule my group has essentially adopted is that if you have a majority of players, you can play, but it’s polite to check with the missing people, and put it to the vote if it’s less than 2/3. For what I’m running I prefer to have everyone – but we’ve got the other guy running the other campaign, so he just runs that week’s game.

          • Randy M says:

            Sorry, I deleted my post, since I wasn’t sure if my memory was entirely accurate. Bottom line, really spotty attendance killed all momentum, and thanks for the sympathy.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M:

            An admirable dedication to accuracy. My experience has been that it’s easier to get someone who’s reliable but not a great gamer to become a good gamer than to get a good gamer who’s unreliable to become reliable.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m just bummed I didn’t get into gaming in high school or college. It isn’t easy arranging schedules of adults with jobs and families and all that.
            But when we’re playing ‘game of the week’ it doesn’t matter so much and they seem just as happy that way, so I’m not complaining. Er, any more, after this.

          • Spookykou says:

            @dndnrsn

            I have a lot of mixed feelings about the DM knowing all the players competency while designing encounters. I agree with all your points about the pros, but worry about the ‘a job for aquaman’ con. Has your group ever expressed this concern, do you think it even is a problem?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M:

            My group has a few jobs between us, but zero families. It’s actually easier than it was through most of university – but that’s mostly because the group I played with was very flaky.

            @Spookykyou:

            Given that pretty much everything I run is low-power and skill rather than class-based, it’s not really a problem. All I have to do is avoid putting them in situations where there’s only one way through, and it’s a skill only one PC has.

        • Randy M says:

          Improvisation, of plot, setting, & rules, is a skill DMs will pick up over time, and is essential because players are unpredictable.

          You’re absolutely right that much of the appeal of RPG’s is being able to think outside the box. DM’s have to accommodate this, but players also have to realize this comes with a cost; improved scenes or encounters are rarely going to be as coherent and detailed as those with more time and thought put into them, and sometimes the DM might just have to say “Okay, you decided to tunnel under the fort instead of a frontal assault or a covert entrance. Um, let’s pick it up there next week so I can figure out what will happen.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            I find that taking a half-hour break is usually enough, although I have begged off for another week. Another, quicker, favourite of mine is “hey everyone, so, what exactly are you gonna do? Come up with a plan, and write it down because I’m going to hold you to it” and then figure out what I’m doing while they argue.

            It’s absolutely terrible though that some published adventures and campaigns are so bad for this. I recently reread one and was absolutely shocked at the degree of assuming the PCs would take a given choice, things that would happen regardless of what PCs did, badass NPCs who can kill an enemy a turn in combat (except it’s impossible if you look at their stats), etc. It’s like every “don’t do this, GMs, don’t do this!” thing rolled into one.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Ok, so thanks to everyone who helped out. I just ran my first session last night and although not much actually happened it was a pretty fun three-to-four hours.

      First Session Report
      I decided to start off in a traditional way, with the classic module B2 Keep on the Borderlands. It’s one I was already familiar with and a trivial conversion from B/X to RC.

      My players were five girls from my PhD program, only one of whom had played D&D before. I’ve decided to name them Absent, Girlfriend the Thief, Huh? the Fighter, Team Mom the Halfling and Thirsty the Cleric.

      Character creation and explaining the basic rules took a while, but actually went pretty smoothly. Since I provided plenty of tables and everyone there was pretty smart to begin with there was none of the usual “arithmetic is hard!” whining I expect from new players. Rolling abilities and hit points also went surprisingly well: everyone got a playable character, and despite some initial grumbling the girls really like their characters so far. We’ll see if that holds once they get some actual combat later on.

      The four girls who had actually showed up entered the Keep on the Borderlands, and immediately made a beeline for the tavern where they spent most of the rest of the session. Highlights included:
      > Team Mom used her halfling unobtrusiveness to hide in the corner and listen for rumors about the Caves of Chaos, while Girlfriend acted like a regular person and just asked the tavern keeper if he knew anything. They collectively learned the (false) rumor that all of the entrances to the caves are trapped, as well as the very useful fact that they should avoid the murderous Mad Hermit to the north.
      > Huh? had rolled a 17 for Strength during character creation and so decided to put it to work arm-wrestling peasants. This didn’t accomplish much but it was fun and gives me something to work with later now that she’s the “arm-wrestling champion.”
      > Thirsty, as per her idiom, decided to seduce the (secretly evil) Priest after failing to identify his Holy Symbol of Utgard-Loki. Supposedly for the purpose of information gathering but also because she wanted to roleplay the flirting. Girlfriend was not thrilled with that development but I made it up to her later on. At least this will make the Priest’s betrayal later on a lot more interesting.

      For the next session, I want to tighten up some of my houserules and finish writing the quick-and-dirty “how to play” guide I meant to hand my players last night. I should also deal with Thirsty out of game before that turns into drama, and pick a time when Absent isn’t too busy for the next session. Not to mention that I want to actually get them all out of the keep and into the hexmap.

      • John Schilling says:

        Glad it went well, and looking forward to the followup. But:

        The Secretly Evil Priest is publicly displaying the Holy Symbol of Utgard-Loki, or at least flashing it to random seductive tavern wenches? I thought it was Evil that was supposed to always triumph because Good is Dumb.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          In the past I’ve made the mistake of playing the Priest as too subtle. Having a party wipe because the mid-level DMPC chaperone turns on you out in the woods is really really shitty.

          Anyway, I figure that out in the sticks people are a lot less knowledgeable about obscure bits of theology. The only other non-Chaotic Cleric in the module is the Curate who is explicitly suspicious of the Priest. If Utgard-Loki’s symbol is as confusingly close to Loki’s as his name, I could see laymen mixing them up.

      • dndnrsn says:

        How long did character creation take, out of the session?

        Also:

        Thirsty, as per her idiom, decided to seduce the (secretly evil) Priest after failing to identify his Holy Symbol of Utgard-Loki. Supposedly for the purpose of information gathering but also because she wanted to roleplay the flirting. Girlfriend was not thrilled with that development but I made it up to her later on.

        I should also deal with Thirsty out of game before that turns into drama

        This sounds like a setup for a niche-market porno, it really does. Stay genre-savvy.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Maybe an hour? It took longer than it should have since I had to explain a lot of basic stuff like dice terminology and ability scores, but it was still faster than making a character properly in 3.5 would have.

          I lol’d at the “niche-market porno” comment. But no, I’m trying to be a good boyfriend so aiming to keep it PG.

          • dndnrsn says:

            An hour is pretty good for new players. 3.5, no way, no how, for new players. Even for people who have made characters before doing everything including equipment could take longer than that.

  5. Alex Zavoluk says:

    I hope this is allowed:

    In case anyone in the Austin, TX area is unaware, there is a regular and reasonably active LW-sphere meetup that any and all readers of SSC are welcome to join. We meet at Spider House at around 1:30 on Saturday afternoons. We also sometimes have extra activities (Petrov Day, climbing, board game nights, etc.) sometimes.

    Mailing list: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/austin-less-wrong

    • dank says:

      Thanks, I just joined. I’ve been searching for other rationalists in Austin. I’m going to be out of town for Thanksgiving but I’ll try to come once I get back. We should all make a coordinated effort to convince Scott to move here.

    • Incurian says:

      I am moving nearby in a few months and will drop by when able. I pledge to be less obnoxious in person.

  6. Mark says:

    In Britain, there is a form of welfare called “Working Tax Credits”.

    Basically, up to a certain level of income, the government pays you a fixed amount to top up your income. The payments can be pretty high if you have children. After a certain level of income, the benefits are gradually withdrawn, though many normal working families receive some payment.

    Anyway, the government is changing the system to ‘Universal Credit’ combining the myriad benefits into one.
    Problem – benefits which are intended as stop-gap support for those without the means to support themselves (jobseekers allowance, housing benefit…) are means tested against your savings. Working tax credits (intended for working people on low pay) are not.

    So many people (myself included) are going to lose all of these benefit payments because our savings are too high. I think this is a bit scandalous, in that if someone has a massive pension, owns a house, they will continue to receive the higher benefits, but if you’ve saved into an ISA, you’ll lose it all.

    Most people don’t have any sympathy though – they think benefits should only be for people in need, and you *need* a house so that shouldn’t be taken into account.

    Anyway, it is a step away from a citizen’s basic income, away from the normalisation of receiving benefits, which is bad in my opinion.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Means-testing against savings is awful, awful. Just the worst kind of incentives for people. We means-test against savings and then we write these horrified articles about how half the population has no savings. Of course they don’t have savings when you’re actively paying them not to!

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        And even when you get rid of the penalty for savings, most people expect it to come back at some point.

        Saving up for college? Thanks, sucker!

    • Salem says:

      Wait, what? You want to normalise receiving benefits?

      The great thing about benefits is that they get the government’s scale and leverage to help loads of people in need. The terrible thing about benefits is that the scale the government is operating on means they are poorly targeted. Obviously, these are two sides of the same coin.

      So if there’s a strong stigma against mooching off the public purse, only people who really need benefits will take them. That way, the government can be generous with benefits, without the cost exploding or having to engage in expensive and counter-productive means testing.

      Unfortunately, in recent years the stigma against taking benefits has eroded, so people who don’t really need the benefits end up taking them. So the government has to crack down with expensive and counter-productive means-testing. And so you’re going to lose your benefits.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        The argument in favor of normalizing benefits is that we are rapidly approaching a point in which an increasingly non-trivial fraction of the population is economically useless and will starve without benefits. See Gwern on neo-Luddism or Scott’s “Burdens” and “Basic Income Guarantees”.

        (I’m not sure to what extent I believe this; both James Donald and Eliezer Yudkowsky have made a pretty good argument that modern first world unemployment is artificially caused by government regulation, and the existence of e.g. Uber seems to bear them out)

        • dndnrsn says:

          I was under the impression that that particular argument was a fairly “weirdo techno-libertarian” thing. The older, more mainstream arguments I have seen are usually some combination of:

          1. Means-tested social programs (welfare, health care, whatever) create bad incentives: if going from no job to a minimum wage job or a minimum wage job to a job paying above minimum wage means losing cash payments, health care, food stamps, school lunches for your kids, etc, it is actually the smart and rational decision to not get a job, to not get a better-paying job, etc. if the gain from the increased income is less than the loss from not getting that stuff anymore. If you just give everyone a cheque in the mail, public health insurance, x dollars a month for groceries, school lunches, etc, the problem no longer exists.

          2. Means-testing involves adding a layer of government bureaucracy, when the money would be better spent if put towards giving everyone xyz. One would be better off spending public money on health care, school lunches, etc than on the pay (and benefits, and pensions) of civil servants whose job it is to determine whether people deserve those school lunches.

          3. Means-testing makes the middle classes, especially the lower middle class, resentful towards those who receive the benefits, towards the government, towards paying their taxes, etc. Someone who is above the cutoff line for all benefits, but not that far above, may feel ripped off that here they are, maybe not doing so great themselves, working hard to pay taxes, and people are getting money for nothing.

          In countries with public health care systems of one sort or another, the common gripe by people who are affluent (so, not the lower middle or middle middle class) is that if they were allowed to pay out of pocket they could get better, faster service. Some people will go to other places to pay for health care. However, because everybody gets the same health care, there’s no gripe that poor people are getting something nobody else is. People who are in one way or another self-employed or contractors, and who don’t make a ton of money – so, a lot of the LMC and MMC – tend to like public health care because they don’t have employer insurance and they could be ruined by major out-of-pocket expenses.

          Compared to these, “people are being replaced by robots and one day there will be even more robots and AIs will replace the professional class and so we need to cut everyone a cheque” is a minority position.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            My comment was about the normalization of receiving government benefits, not means-testing those benefits.

          • The problem with the demogrant approach is that if you give everyone what supporters consider a basic minimum, it ends up very expensive.

            Suppose, for instance, the basic income is $20,000 per capita. Applied to 300 million people, that comes to six trillion dollars year. The total federal budget is a bit under four trillion.

            Even if you take it down to $10,000, it would still amount to more than two thirds of the present budget.

          • rlms says:

            “In countries with public health care systems of one sort or another, the common gripe by people who are affluent (so, not the lower middle or middle middle class) is that if they were allowed to pay out of pocket they could get better, faster service.”
            Which countries are those? As far as I know, the only country with restrictions on private healthcare is Canada, and even there they are only in a few provinces. Everywhere else (i.e. Europe) it is perfectly possible to pay for faster service.

          • Virbie says:

            @DavidFriedman

            > Even if you take it down to $10,000, it would still amount to more than two thirds of the present budget.

            This complaint never resonated too much with me, largely because it ignores the fact that a little over 30% of spending already goes towards Social Security and Unemployment, and a little less than 30% to Medicare and other health spending. At the very least, it seems like all or most of the former would be obviated, making a pretty significant dent in the cost. Also, your formulation for some reason assumes that every income level would have a net gain in transfers in the process of instituting the grant. I can’t imagine why this would be the case: even if we committed to no new net taxation, making the top 50% (or whatever) of the income distribution have their transfers unaffected would again cut a massive chunk out of the cost.

            It’s possible that I’m missing something, but it’s weird that I’ve never seem someone make the prohibitive-cost and even acknowledge these points, let alone address them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @jaimeastorga2000:

            Somehow I interpreted “normalization” in the cultural sense as “normalization” in the practical sense, then. In my defence, the “most people will be useless so let’s give them enough to live on” people are usually arguing for the latter, as I understand it.

            @DavidFriedman:

            What is the total federal + state budget for everything that a grant would (supposedly) replace, though?

            @rlms:

            My relevant experience is with Canada. I was under the impression that several European countries had restrictions, but that impression might have been mistaken.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Virbie: if the US replaced all of SS and Medicare/Medicaid with a $10k UBI, then given David Friedman’s numbers, yes, this would be a net neutral effect on government revenue.

            I see two problems with doing it this way, however. One is that a $10k UBI would likely result in the elderly and poor getting less than they do now (“likely” is doing work – a true UBI might save a lot of wasted money, so they might come out ahead anyway). Two is that I suspect advocates of such a demogrant are arguing for it as a supplement to SS and Medicare/Medicaid, not as a replacement.

        • ” Also, your formulation for some reason assumes that every income level would have a net gain in transfers in the process of instituting the grant.”

          I’m not sure I understand your argument. If you institute a demogrant and simultaneously abolish all existing welfare programs, you then have a way of paying for part of the three or six trillion dollar cost. To make the demogrant plausible without a tax increase, you have to find a list of cuts that add up to three trillion dollars.

          Do you have such a list? Looking at a webbed list of expenditures, military+interest on the debt+veterans benefits add up to about a trillion, so if you do it at the federal level you have to eliminate all other expenditures.

          Are you assuming that present social security recipients will consider it an acceptable deal if you cancel what they regard as the return on the money they paid to social security while reassuring them that they are now part of a national welfare scheme paying them, and everyone else, ten thousand dollars a year? That’s less than the average Social Security recipients receives, less than half the maximum recipient payment.

          And the demogrant is also supposed to compensate the same recipient for the abolition of medicare?

  7. John Schilling says:

    News of the truly weird: Someone has managed to steal three Dutch warships from the Java sea. From the bottom of the Java sea, these particular ships having been sunk early in World War II.

    Authorities suspect outlaw but otherwise boring salvage operators looking for scrap metal by the kiloton. I really, really want to believe that somewhere is a supervillain in his (necessarily gigantic) lair, gloating “Count Scarlioni has his Mona Lisa, and Doctor Impossible fondles the Spear of Longinus every night, but I have HNLMS De Ruyter mounted on my living-room wall!”.

    If the three have instead been re-equipped with Wave Motion Engines and are enroute to Gamilon to defeat said alien menace, that would be OK too.

    • bean says:

      I hope they catch whoever did it, and string them up. While the defense of Java was horribly managed, the men and ships who fought there deserved better than to have this happen.
      Although I do agree that the supervillain would be a more exciting option. Maybe we can persuade him to steal Texas next, and fix her up.

      • Spookykou says:

        I don’t really agree, but I love the idea of the ships deserving respect.

        • Eltargrim says:

          Whether or not they deserve particular respect for their status as warships, they deserve proper handling for being a good source of low-background steel. Given that there is a limited supply of low-background steel sources, pre-atomic naval wrecks should be protected until needed.

          • bean says:

            They’re war graves. I happen to really like WWII-era warships, and think that they should be protected as such (hence my comments), but even if they weren’t, those three ships were the grave of 2,200 men. Maybe it’s OK to rob graves if we have enough need of low-radiation steel, but that’s not the primary reason we should protect them right now.

          • sflicht says:

            @bean,

            I know it might be impossible (I don’t know enough about the Law of the Sea), but would you be in favor of an international treaty granting wartime shipwrecks protected status, along the lines of national monuments, in analogy with major Civil War battlefields?

            I don’t know how I’d feel about such a treaty. I do think this is sort of a victory for the free market. I suspect part of the reason why naval veterans have never pushed for this sort of thing is that it seemed outlandish to imagine the scrap would be economically recoverable. That assumption has clearly been proven wrong.

          • bean says:

            I know it might be impossible (I don’t know enough about the Law of the Sea), but would you be in favor of an international treaty granting wartime shipwrecks protected status, along the lines of national monuments, in analogy with major Civil War battlefields?

            This should already have been illegal, as the vessels were still property of the Netherlands. Wrecks don’t suddenly stop belonging to their owners, and salvage isn’t ‘finders keepers’, nor does it have an apparent time-out. The Spanish have laid claim to treasure from a ship which sank over 200 years ago and gotten away with it.
            The only thing a treaty could do would be to mandate extra protection for said vessels.

            I don’t know how I’d feel about such a treaty. I do think this is sort of a victory for the free market. I suspect part of the reason why naval veterans have never pushed for this sort of thing is that it seemed outlandish to imagine the scrap would be economically recoverable. That assumption has clearly been proven wrong.

            They didn’t need to. The Dutch wouldn’t give permission to salvage the ships without good reason (and a good plan for respectfully dealing with the bodies), and there’s no legal way to get the ships without that.
            I should point out that many war wrecks in shallower water have been salvaged, despite the bodies aboard. Notable cases are Tirpitz and Oklahoma. In fact, the only case I’m aware of of an easily-salvaged wreck remaining is Arizona, and I can only speculate that they just never got around to cutting her up before someone got the bright idea of preserving her. (Some salvage work was done, removing all of the above-water wreckage and two of the turrets.)

    • John Schilling says:

      Looking into this some more, and the supervillain hypothesis just won’t go away.

      The Dutch MoD report says that two of the ships are “geheel vermist”, which seems to translate to “completely missing”. I’d like more details, and I assume that allows for small bits to have been shaken lose and left on the sea floor as the ships were salvaged, but nonetheless a fairly comprehensive salvage operation. Of ships in almost 70 meters of water.

      That’s technical-diving depth; you need either lots of helium or saturation and decompression chambers, or really both if you want to get serious work done. Not something that can be done by local fishermen moonlighting as salvage operators with second-hand scuba gear. I can’t imagine the logistical footprint would go unnoticed, unless it were hidden in some other large technical-diving operation, but is it really worthwhile for e.g. an offshore oil drilling company to get into literal grave-robbing at scrap-metal prices?

      Remotely-operated vehicles might do it, but they seem to be too slow and expensive for this sort of salvage even when operated openly.

      There has been, AFIK, exactly one ship built capable of lifting something that size off the sea bed without sending down divers to cut it into smaller chunks. If scrap metal is what you are after, you’d get more by simply scrapping that ship than by sending it out to salvage every warship the Dutch navy lost in WWII. Same goes for probably any other deepwater salvage ship I don’t know about.

      There are certainly ways to tear up the hulk of a warship into readily-salvageable chunks without sending down divers – some news reports suggest local salvage operators are using explosives, and purely mechanical means are not out of the question. But these ships, the light cruisers at least, are almost literally made out of, well, this stuff. Short of divers or ROVs with cutting torches, I don’t see how you break up a ship like that without either leaving an ungodly mess or leaving a huge section of the hull intact and settling for what bits of superstructure you can dredge up. Neither of which is consistent with the reporting.

      I’m not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens. Or supervillains. One of the two.

      • beleester says:

        If scrap metal is what you are after, you’d get more by simply scrapping that ship than by sending it out to salvage every warship the Dutch navy lost in WWII. Same goes for probably any other deepwater salvage ship I don’t know about.

        Actually, there’s a specific reason for salvaging sunken pre-end-of-WWII warships: Low-background steel. Basically, any steel made after we started doing atmospheric nuclear tests has tiny, tiny amounts of radioactive material in it. Some scientific instruments are really sensitive to radiation – Geiger counters and so on – so they need to be made with low-background steel to be accurate.

        And the best way to find low-background steel is to find steel that has been sitting underwater for the past 70 years, like sunken battleships.

        • Randy M says:

          That’s fascinating, and I’m not sure why exactly, but kind of disquieting.

        • Aapje says:

          Thx, that was very interesting.

        • bean says:

          My understanding is that the market for low-radiation steel is relatively small, and can be satisfied by salvage of the remains of the High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow. If someone had dumped 10,000 tons of low-radiation steel onto the market all at once, I’m pretty sure that questions would have been asked.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hence, the supervillain hypothesis. Professor Midnight needs lots of low-radiation steel to fabricate the Omega Device, but if he tries to buy it openly people will wonder what he is up to. That way leads to the inevitable humiliating pummeling by some low-rent superhero. Instead, it looks like he may have as much as a four-year head start on his nefarious scheme.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Is refining steel to make it non-radoiactive impossible, impossible with current tech, or so expensive as to not be worthwhile?

          • bean says:

            More or less impossible. AIUI, even remelting low-radiation steel is enough to contaminate it, which leaves sunken warships as basically the only source. Even if you took apart an old building, the steel would be in the wrong shape and thickness to use.

          • lhn says:

            The Straight Dope claims that as background radiation has dropped, the need for prewar low-background steel has likewise– that many applications can get by with new steel and more sophisticated instruments that can identify and filter background count. (Though Wikipedia says cobalt-60 remains a problem.)

            http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2971/is-steel-from-scuttled-german-warships-valuable-because-it-isn-t-contaminated-with-radioactivity

          • John Schilling says:

            Low-radiation steel can be made by ensuring that your furnace is continuously purged with, e.g., helium. Any decent university laboratory ought to be able to whip up a few hundred grams on demand that way.

            Unfortunately, the market for low-radiation steel has traditionally been too small for anyone to hermetically seal and purge an industrial blast or electrorefining furnace, but too large for laboratory-scale operations. And anything that involves exposing molten steel or iron to the Earth’s natural (well, sort of…) atmosphere, now means making it a little bit radioactive. So, as long as we’ve got a reasonable supply of old sunken warships and the like, that’s cheaper.

            Though probably not if you need to conceal the entire operation in a generally piratical fashion.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This all sounds like the kind of stuff people would post if they were covering for supervillains who had stolen WWII-era wrecks.

            Not that I’m making any accusations or anything. Just throwing that out there.

          • Artificirius says:

            That sounds awfully close to accusing him of…

            :sunglasses:

            Schilling.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You win this time!

  8. onyomi says:

    HIT or more frequent, less intense workouts?

    • psmith says:

      Depends on goals, modality, logistics, where you are right now, specific programming, and do you mean HIT like Mike Mentzer/Dorian Yates or HIIT like Tabata sprints?

    • moridinamael says:

      Unless you are much unlike me, you will find HIT is so unpleasant that you just won’t do it for long.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      I read here that the only thing that really matters is doing compound exercises to (near) failure.

      I haven’t actually tried this out, but I’ll probably start experimenting with it in the next few weeks to see if I make or lose any gains.

    • onyomi says:

      To elaborate a bit:

      I’ve kind of alternated in my thinking and practice between these two over the years. Recently started a new round of super-slow HIT using mostly machines but doing a very full range of motion. I’ve definitely had some good results, though there also tends to be some initial improvement due simply to changing. I guess I always have mixed feelings about the two because they both have a logic which makes some sense, but which are somewhat contradictory:

      High frequency, low intensity: your body adapts to what you do frequently. Workout every day or almost every day. Make it a habit. Spend a lot of time under tension. But make it fun so you want to do it every day.

      HIT: your body only adapts when it perceives it necessary. The way to make it seem necessary is to massively overload its current capacity. This requires basically reducing your muscles to jelly, but you don’t have to do it that often. Intense soreness is a good sign. The workout should be short and infrequent but kind of like a battle. Grunting and trembling mean you’re doing it right.

      Both make a certain amount of sense. Seemingly against HIT: the highest performers in the world: Olympians, bodybuilders, powerlifters spend hours a day working out. You can’t be in Olympian or Mr. Universe shape doing two 30 min workouts a week. Yet these people also workout very intensely much of the time, I think, so it’s not like just spending a long time in the weight room without intensity will produce those results. Also, it may be that they are self-selecting: the type of people with the genes and/or sufficient dosage of steroids to allow them to recover from daily, hours-long, intense workouts. Most of us cannot effectively recover from such workouts and so must either reduce intensity or frequency. Lately I think I’m having better results with more intensity.

      My general sense of the pros and cons of the two styles, based purely on my personal experience:

      HIT:
      Better muscle building results (for me, at least)
      Better for strengthening muscles as a kind of PT
      May ironically be safer if done super slow and with machines that create even force curve
      More workout in less time
      Can be fun if viewed as a kind of challenge
      But, as Moridinamael says, can start to feel like a real ordeal, making it hard to keep up in the long run. You don’t really look forward to your workout and it’s hard to make it into a regular habit like “hit the gym on the way to work.”
      Probably not great for cardio or calorie burn, though increased muscle size and oxidative capacity might help you burn more calories even when not working out

      More frequent, less intense:
      kind of the opposite of all the above; better for cardio, mood boosting benefits of exercise; more pleasant; may be more suitable to some body types; may, however increase chances of injury due to potential for overuse, acceleration, etc.

      • the anonymouse says:

        I am enjoying good results from Rippetoe’s Starting Strength method, and it’s cheap.* I’m currently at 3x per week, having had a headstrong period where I ignored competent advice and tried to do a 6x/week regimen alternating days between basic lifts and a program of rando ancillary lifts that seemed cool. (Muscle confusion! Hahaha!) Turns out, competent advice was right, and all I was doing was wasting time and exhausting myself such that I couldn’t put up enough weight to make any gains.

        My priors: I dislike running, and unless the US Army is going to resume paying me to do so, I won’t. I also dislike going to commercial gyms, because of the expense, the other people, and the time involved in going back and forth.

        Cheap: I bought a pillar-style squat rack for a hundred-something dollars new and shipped to my door; my bar and weight pile have been either scavenged or found at Goodwill (which, oddly, actually tends to price plates higher than the price-per-pound at used sporting-good stores, but also rotates through half-price days). I buy more plates as my numbers go up.

        * Rippetoe himself is an acquired taste, but I enjoy his bluntness.

    • TheBearsHaveArrived says:

      I prefer simply hitting whatever major and minor body parts are not tired, as a way to maximize total recovery rates.

      I guess I do some version of HIT. I prefer two 15 minute workouts a day.

      A lot of top bodybuilders just kindof wing it each day on how they feel, with some more attention paid to what bodyparts they need to hit more.

    • Brad says:

      Something like sprinting as fast as I can for a short period of time makes me feel really really awful. That’s always been true for me even when I was in the best shape of my life (though at that time as fast as I can was faster).

      Yes, finding time and motivation to do an hour of moderate exercise is difficult, but while I’m doing it don’t feel like I’d rather be dead.

      I don’t otherwise have a particularly low pain threshold. I’m not sure exactly what determines this sort of thing.

  9. SUT says:

    There have been these competing claims for which side is perp and which side is victim to more political violence. In the spirit of rationality could I propose an experiment:

    Hillary voters wear a red hat and walk through the hood. Or put a Trump bumper stickers on their car and park it for the week in the hood.

    Trump voters wear an ImWithHer shirt and go to a sports bar in Fishtown.

    Do you think people would do this? Would it change minds? Or is this completely infantile point, which “everyone already knows what would happen”

  10. Wrong Species says:

    Let’s say I wanted to genetically alter myself to get a higher Dunbar number. Assuming we had genetic engineering technology and understood it, what kind of limit would I likely face? Is 1000 too large, assuming that I keep brain size relatively close to what it is now? Or is it more likely that it’s all hardware and I would need a bigger brain?

    • StellaAthena says:

      Setting aside biological limits, temporal limitations matter a lot. There’s a pretty hard cap on the number of people you can spend time with that you don’t see “routinely” (whatever we take that to mean). Yes technically you might be able to process being friends with a million people, but how many of those people are you going to find time to see at least once a month.

      • StellaAthena says:

        Following up with some numbers pulled out of my ass:

        On average one hour of socializing per weekday and 5 per weekend day sounds pretty respnable for an adult who has a job and other responsibilities. That’s 15 hours a week, or 75 hours a month. If we only count in-person time, it seems reasonable to say that you probably don’t want to stretch it out more thinly than 10 people per hour (doing all your socializing in groups) and requiring you to spend 5 hours per month with someone for them to count. This actually puts you at 150 friends outside of your daily life circle which puts you at maybe 400 total people.

        You can make this more efficient through internet communication if you wish. Long emails is probably the most efficient there. I write a life update email every two months that I send to over 100 people, mostly college friends. Allowing for mass mailings like that, it seems like you could probably just read a lot of them, maybe one every 30 minutes? This also puts you at 150 friends whose emails you read every month, interestingly enough.

        Feel free to tear my numbers apart, but an order of magnetude increase in your friend circle seems logisticaly imposssible, even if it were cognitively possible.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I’m imaging a race of people who’s gimmick is they have a far higher Dunbar number than us. It affects the way their entire society operates. So they have a much stronger and larger community but they are also far more insular than we are. So yes, it would be difficult in our society for something like that to work but I’d think it would be different in a society structured differently.

          • StellaAthena says:

            Structured differently how exactly? I don’t see any particular connection between Dunbar’s number and the average hours worked per day.

            The above assumptions allow you to have 2 friends per hour spent socializing per month. Let’s say you do nothing but sleep for 8 hours and socialize every day. That still only gets you to 960, which isn’t even an increase in the order of magnitude. But I think a far better objection to my numbers is “maybe they have different societal conceptions of friendship” which is totally fair. So let’s say that you have 1,000,000 friends that you interact with outside your day-to-day activities and let’s say you work 8 hours a day, sleep 8 hours a day, and need to spend 1 hour per ______ to count someone as a friend and solve for the blank.

            You have 16 hours over the weekend that aren’t accounted for too. So every week you spend 9*8 hours socializing, which is 9*8*5 friends that you can interact with per month. So how many months does it take to interact with all 1 million friends? 2777.77… months, or just over 230 years. If we say you spend all your time socializing, you could spare 1 hour per friend per 114 years. It would take nearly half a year if you spent 1 minute per friend

          • Skivverus says:

            A slightly different metaphor on the numbers to add to Stella’s analysis.
            We’ve got two sliders: (A) percentage of time an individual spends socializing (after factoring out all necessary non-social time usage), and (B) percentage of time spent socializing required to count another individual as a friend.
            (A) obviously cannot exceed 100%, and for humans is probably higher than 20% (at least, for those who need to worry about Dunbar’s number), so increasing Dunbar’s number mostly requires pushing down (B).

            (B), in turn, I suspect is bounded by the rate(s) at which different individuals change: that is, the faster two individuals change, the more time they’ll have to spend socializing to remain friends.

  11. lycotic says:

    It seems that one of the losers of the last election was PolitiFact, and at least one of the following is true:

    A: Post Fact: Facts don’t matter, or at least the truth value of politician’s statements don’t really matter, so they should just go home and do something productive with their lives.

    B: Bias: PolitiFact, despite its claims of nonpartisanship, is left-leaning, and its rankings are bogus, so they should just go home and do something productive with their lives.

    C: Structural: Facts matter, and checking them matters, but no organization can really present itself as an unbiased referee, so they should just go home and do something productive with their lives.

    D: Voice Crying In the Wilderness: Facts matter, and eventually holding the faith and fighting the fight will prevail.

    Personally I think it’s (C), and (D) is very unlikely, so they should probably just give up.

    • bean says:

      There was at least one case where they rated reasonably similar statements by Trump and Sanders about the black unemployment rate very differently on what seemed to me to be a technicality. I’d say that B shouldn’t be ruled out.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yeah, doesn’t take much to find Politifact nonsense with respect to Trump.

        Here they fact-check Trump saying he’s a bigger draw than Jay-Z and Beyonce:

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/nov/07/donald-trump/closing-argument-donald-trump-wrongly-says-he-outd/

        They compare Trump’s crowds with a 2014 tour featuring Jay-Z and Beyonce, when clearly Trump is referring to the Clinton rallies featuring same. They then admit that some of Trump’s rallies were bigger than the Jay-Z and Beyonce’s Clinton campaign appearances, but still rate the statement False.

        That example’s rather petty, of course, but illustrative.

        • Wander says:

          Here’s a good one: Trump saying that Clinton wants open borders.

          In a brief speech expert from 2013, Clinton purportedly says, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable.”

          But we don’t have more context about what Clinton meant by “open borders” because she has not released the full speech. Her campaign has said she was talking about clean energy across the hemisphere.

          We rated Trump’s claim Mostly False.

          • lycotic says:

            I’m not really here to fight this point by point. For the record, I believe, having looked at it some but not spent significant time on it, that they’ve a liberal bias at an average shift of about 1. *And* that being off by about 1 in one direction or the other is the best you can hope for in such an organization.

            In this particular case, FWIW, I read Clinton’s statement as a dream of rainbows and unicorns, not a policy position. Trump seems to be arguing for it being her policy position, which would be misleading at best. *shrug*

          • Aapje says:

            That seems like absurd logic, where you claim that Clinton said conflicting things, but then call Trump a lair for believing one of the things that she did say. That seems absurdly uncharitable and biased.

            I think that if someone says ‘my dream is,’ then the words after that can logically be regarded as their personal goal in life. Now, many people work under a boss and don’t get to set their own agenda, but the job of president is clearly an exception. So it’s not unreasonable to assume that this would be the end goal of a president Clinton.

            Many politicians clearly lie in their campaign policy (making promises they know that they can’t keep, but which attract many voters). So when a stated ‘dream’ conflicts with ‘policy,’ I don’t see how you can blame someone for picking the former over the latter. At most you can blame Trump from stating it with high certainty, rather than hedge, but Clinton clearly did that too during the campaign and I don’t think that Politifact called her out for that.

          • lycotic says:

            @Aapje

            I think I can say “my dream is that I can spend all day playing with my kid” without anyone expecting me to go quit my job right now. The actual concerns I have to deal with in the world mean that my dream and my plans are different.

            I can say “I dream of a world with no war” while still believing that the world we actually live in requires us to have a military.

            OTOH, it is pertinent information that Clinton dreams of a world with no borders as a final state, as many would never like to get there. Nonetheless, it is a very imprecise guide to what a Clinton presidency would have actually attempted to do.

            There’s a tiresome strand of political discourse that talks about the dark motives of what a politician “really” wants. Scott was just complaining about it aimed a little differently. It’s not really fair in either direction.

            If Politifact can’t check this kind of discourse, then they can’t really provide a useful function, as most of the nasty, shady political ads look something like that.

          • Aapje says:

            I think I can say “my dream is that I can spend all day playing with my kid” without anyone expecting me to go quit my job right now.

            That doesn’t mean that it is incorrect to say: You want to play with your kid all day. It merely means that you don’t have the financial means to fund that, so you cannot do what you want. So it is incorrect so state: ‘lycotic is going to play with his kid all day,’ because one cannot know whether you will have the means to achieve your goal.

            I can say “I dream of a world with no war” while still believing that the world we actually live in requires us to have a military.

            This is not a logical rebuttal, since “I want a world with no war” is not inconsistent with “I want an army” (especially if one believes in MAD-like status quo). I have noticed that America seems chronically incapable of not using their army, so you may think that it is mandatory, but it is in fact possible to have an army and not use it.

            OTOH, it is pertinent information that Clinton dreams of a world with no borders as a final state, as many would never like to get there. Nonetheless, it is a very imprecise guide to what a Clinton presidency would have actually attempted to do.

            Trump never argued about what Clinton would do, he talked about her dreams and the consequences of those dreams. You are moving the goal posts from whether Trump’s statement is actually false to arguing that he can’t say certain things because they are not nice:

            There’s a tiresome strand of political discourse that talks about the dark motives of what a politician “really” wants.

            This is exactly how bias happens often in fact checking. People can’t really argue with a statement, so they start dragging in ethics that have nothing to do with the truthfulness, just to get the desired outcome.

            Frankly, it’s absurd to insinuate that Trump was projecting beliefs on Clinton when she actually said it. This is not Kremlin-watching.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Lycotic:

            I think I can say “my dream is that I can spend all day playing with my kid” without anyone expecting me to go quit my job right now.

            The difference is that you (presumably) don’t have enough money to quit your job, whereas the US President does have the ability to open up America’s borders should he or she so want. Plus, since there are people who do actually want open borders and see it as a feasible policy objective, and since many of these people are in the same political tribe as Hillary, and since there already is an example of a common market with open trade and open borders (the EU), I don’t think it’s at all outlandish to read “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders” and come away with the conclusion that Hillary would try and set up such an arrangement should she come to power. At the very least, if she *wouldn’t* do such a thing, she’s phrased herself is a potentially misleading way, and putting the blame on Trump instead of on Hillary’s poor choice of words does seem rather tendentious.

          • lycotic says:

            @Aapje

            I have noticed that America seems chronically incapable of not using their army

            Is that peculiar to America? What features of America cause this?

            The only large army that hasn’t been used recently that I can think of is the Chinese PLA, and I’m not confident it won’t be within a generation.

          • Aapje says:

            Very few countries are actually pacifist (Japan is the one that I know of), but I think that the US has a way lower threshold to use violence than most other countries.

            I think this stems from (at least):
            – A lack of (semi-recent) experience with foreign armies on US soil, which makes it easier to pretend that war only harms the combatants.
            – Militarism is a key element of US culture (the adulation of the US military is quite extreme when compared to my culture). Silly dogmatic beliefs, like the assumption that everything that the US military does is to ‘protect our freedom,’ also leads to overconfidence in the ability of the military to achieve positive outcomes.
            – The US mostly dominates the current World Order and thus has a strong interest in knocking down threats to it’s hegemony and/or proving to other countries that they can trust in papa bear.

          • keranih says:

            Aajpe –

            I’m going to push back on this:

            America has a way lower threshhold to use violence as I disagree.

            I believe that for our capability and responsibilities we have a high threshold, and that Pax Americana would be far less impressive if we were as inclined to use force as other nations of less power and reach.

            For your particular points:

            – It’s hard to make the argument that the USA does not understand what it means to be conquered and occupied territory without disregarding the American CW. One could say that war didn’t count, but one would have to disregard the cultural history of Southern over-representation in the American military. As it is, most places that the US has put boots on the ground have been in the midst of active, violent turmoil. It’s not like we roll into peaceful places and start shit. (*)

            – Again, the trust the American public puts in its military is temporally dependent, and non-universal. It is also greater than most of the West, but then again, our military is better than most of the West, as well. Most places we get into fights with, also have strong “warrior ethos”.

            – Secondarily to the above – support for the American military is partly Tribal, in the USA. I suspect it is also so in other countries, but perhaps not in the same manner. Globalists of all stripes tend to down play both military virtues and military advantages, for reasons.

            Finally, a bunch of other countries have overtly outsourced their military might to the USA. It’s not accurate to make this into empire building when it’s more like “dude, please go knock down that asshole for us”.

            (*) Don’t say Iraq. No, seriously, don’t.

          • Aapje says:

            @keranih

            The US civil war was a more traditional ‘civil’ war where the combatants mostly stayed out of the way of civilians. Civilians even went to watch some battles as tourists. This is incomparable to more modern wars where civilians that minded their own business very often suffered greatly from combat action.

            I would also argue that the southern people who care about have lost are motivated by a desire for independence, not anger over the casualties.

            As it is, most places that the US has put boots on the ground have been in the midst of active, violent turmoil.

            That doesn’t mean that you can improve that by intervening or that doing so cannot be regarded as a low threshold to use violence.

            (*) Don’t say Iraq. No, seriously, don’t.

            Voldemort was actually relatively peaceful, in a ‘most people daren’t resist, sort of way.’ It clearly didn’t improve.

            Again, the trust the American public puts in its military is temporally dependent, and non-universal.

            My argument is not that the US people give infinite trust, just a lot more than in most other nations.

            It is also greater than most of the West, but then again, our military is better than most of the West, as well.

            More effective at killing people, sure. More effective at achieving good outcomes…not always.

            Finally, a bunch of other countries have overtly outsourced their military might to the USA. It’s not accurate to make this into empire building when it’s more like “dude, please go knock down that asshole for us”.

            That is true, but:
            – you don’t necessarily have to say yes
            – many of the military actions don’t seem to be of this kind, but were pretty clearly desired by the US leadership themselves.

          • Matt M says:

            I know I’m going back in the conversation a bit, but spinning it as “Hillary dreams of a world where borders are no longer necessary” is just a tad charitable, is it not?

            Imagine Trump said “I dream of a world with no black people”

            Would the media spin be, “Trump calls for the extermination of blacks – announces intention to nuke Africa” or would it be “Trump clearly is saying that he dreams of a future where racial harmony leads to such continuous intermixing of the races that all humanity coalesces into a pleasant shade of light brown.”

      • lycotic says:

        Curious:

        Given the ~300 judgements made on the major candidates, what do you think was the average skew due to a labelling bias, on their 0 – 5 truth scale?

        I mean it’s probably not 0, but is it really big enough to affect anything?

        *Far* more likely would be a skew due to selection bias. I mean, you’d expect all politicians to show up as less truthful than they normally are, since Politifact doesn’t grade their uncontroversial statements, but there’s ample grey area in what they actually choose to grade.

        • Wander says:

          I saw a pretty good post about it (on tumblr, so unfortunately I don’t have it to link) that showed something like a 2 or 3, with half-truths becoming pants-on-fire when said by a Republican. I think someone would have to be very naive to claim that Politifact wasn’t biased towards the left, the real question is just how extreme.

        • gbdub says:

          Somebody posted a few months back (I’m having trouble finding it) a chart of average politifact rating for most of the politicians in the presidential race plus a few prominent senators.

          Literally every Republican was rated as a bigger liar than literally every Democrat. The poster was using this to tout how Republicans are all liars. But the result just seems wildly unlikely without a significant bias in either the rating or selection of statements to check.

          EDIT: I’ll add that personally, I find the detailed descriptions Politifact puts out actually pretty useful summaries of the sources and sides of the argument. But the rating afterward seems really arbitrary.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Literally every Republican was rated as a bigger liar than literally every Democrat.

            Here are polifact’s ratings for the GOP and democratic candidates.

            Politifact has fact-checked 79 statements by Jeb Bush. Of these, 7 (9%) were rated false or pants on fire.

            Politifact has fact-checked 293 statements by Hillary Clinton. Of these, 36 (12%) were rated false or pants on fire.

            You were saying?

          • Jiro says:

            If it is not true for literally every Republican, but it is true for the majority of Republicans, should you rate the statement “mostly true” or “pants on fire”?

          • gbdub says:

            I was saying my impressions from a chart I’m still pretty sure I saw, but I may have misremembered or the chart itself may have been cherry picked (it was second hand, not direct from Politifact). It’s possible Jeb was on there and ranked appropriately, but the whole thing was skewed pretty red.

            Anyway I’ll shut up about until / if I can find it.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        There was at least one case where they rated reasonably similar statements by Trump and Sanders about the black unemployment rate very differently on what seemed to me to be a technicality.

        This accusation has been repeated many times here. It was false the first time and remains so. Sanders referred to the U-6 measure of underemployment for black youths as the “real” unemployment rate for that demographic; because the U-6 measure at least arguably provides a more accurate picture of unemployment, politifact rated his claim mostly true. Trump just picked the highest number he could find, which was only very tenuously connected to unemployment, and called that the black youth unemployment rate. Politifact rated his claim mostly false. The “technicality” here is that Sanders had a principled basis for the claim he made while Trump was slinging bullshit.

        In general, if you think you’ve found a problem with one of politifact’s ratings, the odds are overwhelming that it’s your judgment that’s mistaken, not politifact. The only complaint against politifact I’ve heard here or anywhere else that has turned out to have any substance to it is the one Wander lodged above about open borders. The rest has just been partisan whinging.

        • rlms says:

          Eh, there is clearly a difference in charitability. Trump “exaggerates the issue” whereas Sanders’ “general point was correct”.

        • gbdub says:

          Actually I think this is a good example of why Politifact can be misleading even when it’s right. Both Sanders and Trump were making the same overall point: the low number for overall federal unemployment is misleading, as there is a much larger group of people who ought/want to be working but can’t and have given up looking. Black youths are particularly hard hit by his.

          Sanders chose a better fact to back up this point, Trump chose an exaggerated statistic. So in that sense scoring Sanders higher is justified.

          But the overall point being made wasn’t “mostly false”, just the factoid used to support it. The problem is it’s too easy to take “mostly false” as “Trump is a liar, unemployment is super low, yay Obama!” While seeing Bernie’s “mostly true” as “see Bernie had a point all along!” It ruins all the nuance. As I said earlier, the long form explanation on Politifact covered all this and seemed pretty fair. But the final rating is pretty subjective and trying to use it statistically to say who is the bigger liar is problematic.

          • Moon says:

            Everyone seems to use that one error in a politifact rating to prove that politifact is supposedly untrustworthy. But politifact very very seldom makes errors like that. But I guess Trump supporters need some way to “prove” that Trump isn’t the biggest liar ever to run for president in at least the last century.

            Politics is tribal. So you get to nitpick all criticisms of your tribe’s leader, until you find that 1 in 1000 places where the criticism is not valid. And you get to cherry pick your examples and justifications for your argument that your preferred tribe’s leader is the greatest thing since sliced bread. That’s also called “rationalism” around here, LOL.

            There’s another technique that is used around here. If someone links to an article in a publication, the substance of the article doesn’t need to be discussed, if one disagrees with it. One only needs to discuss one particular writer in the entire history of the magazine who had been once found to disregard some standard of journalism. That keeps one safe from the content of the article. The commenter probably won’t go back and link to the 20 other articles documenting the same events, because it gets too tiresome, doing that all the time. This technique is similar to dog piling, in that it wears down the opposition tribe, with little effort on the part of members of the other tribe.

          • cassander says:

            >Everyone seems to use that one error in a politifact rating to prove that politifact is supposedly untrustworthy

            People have brought up multiple errors.

            >ut politifact very very seldom makes errors like that.

            and your evidence for this is……..

            > That’s also called “rationalism” around here, LOL.

            And what do you call it when you do it, moon?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            People have brought up multiple errors.

            Rather, people have brought up multiple politifact rulings that they take to contain errors but which, in fact, do not.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think all of those are true to a certain extent. Everyone is biased, even on “simple matters of fact” and Politifact selectively interpreted statements to suit their ideology. However, Trump certainly told more non-truths than any other candidate but his supporters didn’t care if he was always factually correct. However, this doesn’t mean fact checking is hopeless. It does mean that it’s an uphill battle and that we need more fact checkers to temper the bias of other fact checkers. Hopefully, groups that are less biased should gain status and become more prominent. Of course, they can’t resolve questions such as “is global warming something caused by humans” or “will a minimum wage raise increase unemployment” but I think we can get to a point where we agree on questions of “did he say that” or “did this event happen” for the most part.

      Some may roll their eyes and dismiss this as a hopeless fantasy but there is a precedent. 538 has become the go to source for many when it comes to tracking polls and they were one of the few groups of people not dismissing Trumps chances. They still gave him a thirty percent chance of winning the election and correctly predicted that if he won, he would still lose the popular vote.

      • lycotic says:

        Fact checking aggregators?

        Will we get into arguments about whether this aggregator or that aggregator is inserting to much uncertainty in their models of fact-checker correlation?

        • Wrong Species says:

          The problem with a fact checking aggregater is that we don’t have an independent way to verify their accuracy. But I can certainly imagine something like that. In fact, there could be a “bias index”. Imagine that we have two fact checkers R and D. Whenever R disagrees from other fact checkers, it is biased towards Republicans. So they get a score of one. D is biased towards Democrats so it gets a score of -1. And there is a third group, I, which doesn’t have a consistent group that it leans towards so it gets a score of zero. So maybe people decide that I is the most trustworthy, or at least relatively non-ideological.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        They still gave him a thirty percent chance of winning the election and correctly predicted that if he won, he would still lose the popular vote.

        The second part of this sentence is false. In their final forecast, 538 gave Trump a 10.5% chance of winning the electoral college without the popular vote, and an 18% chance of winning both.

    • Skivverus says:

      I’d go with C’, though B may also be the case: no sufficiently large institution is immune to lying if they think they can get away with it.
      This is because the reputational incentive for a person or institution to tell the truth is proportional to how much their audience can and does verify what they say; at an individual level, honesty may be a terminal value, but for sufficiently large organizations the Anthropological Law of Large Numbers (which I may or may not have just made up, but you get the idea) kicks in.

      • Wander says:

        One of my biggest issues with many fact checking sites is that they only barely/don’t at all actually explain how they came to the conclusion that they present. They are very frequently quite hand-wavy about why something is true or false. I would trust them a lot more if they actually showed me their own sources, because they’re not actually arbiters of fact themselves, that’s what the research is for. Additionally, I don’t think any fact checking site so far has given a good justification on why they should count as an “official” source, what qualifications their staff have and why this makes their judgment better than the average person.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      B: Bias: PolitiFact, despite its claims of nonpartisanship, is left-leaning, and its rankings are bogus, so they should just go home and do something productive with their lives.

      Sed quis corriget ipsos correctores?

    • BBA says:

      It’s always been (A). Facts have never mattered. We should all just go home and stock up on canned goods.

      • shakeddown says:

        I suspect facts probably matter more in less partisan/emotional elections. This election got incredibly ugly and I don’t think facts could affect it much either way, but if we look at elections in less partisan periods (where a better candidate could win over 60% of the vote), they would probably mean more.
        And if nothing else, the belief that facts matter is important, in that it may push candidates to try having more honest policy stances. If future politicians will look back on this election and just go “nope, don’t care about facts”, that’s worrying.

    • suntzuanime says:

      What about E: Hubris? PolitiFact has arrogated themselves authority over true and false, how can you possibly expect that to go well? I’m sure they’re trying, but they don’t seem to have the proper respect for the enormity of their task.

      • lycotic says:

        Wouldn’t that fall under (C) — It can’t be done?

        I think an important question is whether Politifact failed because they suck, or because it’s impossible.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I took (C) to mean that no organization could succeed at getting trust, not at deserving trust, and specifically that people would fail to trust them because they would assume they were explicitly biased, rather than because they would assume that they were not up to the task of divining truth.

    • paulmbrinkley says:

      One problem I have with fact checking, that I’ve not seen addressed in this thread yet, is that a fact checker tells you nothing about the importance of those facts, and that threatens to make the whole operation worthless.

      Suppose a checker finds one candidate says 90% true facts and another says 60%, and reports that. Everyone thinks the first candidate is superior. But then someone deep-dives and finds that most of the first candidate’s 90% was a panoply of obscure details about sub-Saharan foreign policy that affects no one in the electorate, while the second candidate’s 60% were on domestic agriculture, at a time when everyone is especially worried about it. Seen that way, the second candidate is much more relevant.

      I’m strawmanning this deliberately to illustrate how skewed a picture fact checking can give a voter if they don’t have time to look at anything beyond “truth percentage”. In practice, I don’t know how big a problem this actually is, and that’s another problem I have: it seems very hard to tell, without relying on the authority of the very fact checkers I suspect of doing this.

      Related to this is the problem of one candidate who makes fewer checkable claims than the other, or facts you can’t check because they’re really predictions you can’t check until after an election, or that are impossible to check without perfect knowledge of the entire system, etc.

      • Mark says:

        This is definitely true of Trump vs. Clinton – some of the statements that they rated 100% true for Clinton were just facts that absolutely nobody was contesting.

        I mean – they fact checked Clinton on whether there was a law suit against Trump (which Trump admitted to).
        The equivalent would have been to fact check Trump on whether Bill Clinton signed NAFTA, which they didn’t (as far as I’m aware) do.

        So, I think they need to get rid of the overall truthfulness rating – it’s meaningless – and just stick to providing evidence for specific statements.

    • cassander says:

      The washington post’s fact checker consistently does a good, even handed job, far better than politifact, so I lean towards B. That said, there’s definitely some truth to C, but not so much that the whole effort is useless.

    • Matt M says:

      How about something like “Facts matter sometimes and sometimes they don’t” combined with “Politifact can provide useful analysis about a particular claim but their ratings are meaningless and useless.”

      I think part of the problem is that people don’t actually read politifact articles, and as such, they use it for something it was never originally intended to be. Adding up all of the Trump statements they evaluate and coming up with an “average” to prove he’s a “bigger liar” than Hillary is simply not sound reasoning whatsoever – given that there is no objective standard of what statements get rated and what ones don’t.

      I treat politifact the way I treat video game reviews. I read the article for informational purposes, completely ignore the pointless and arbitrary numerical score at the end, and then do my own follow-on research as necessary. It still works reasonably well for that.

    • What if someone organized a pair of fact checking organizations, one of them clearly biased to the right, one to the left, and they only published conclusions when they agreed with each other?

      • Skivverus says:

        Well, that at least mitigates one sort of bias. I’m not confident on what percentage of all bias that one sort is, though.

      • The Nybbler says:

        In the fullness of time…. no, who am I kidding, from Day 1… both organizations would be biased to the same side, only with one of them lying about it.

    • nyccine says:

      It’s absolutely B. Politifact, like virtually all such “fact-checking” sites, are creatures of newspapers, and it’s no coincidence that this type of site came about after consumer’s trust of the press as an unbiased reporter of news had completely cratered. The “fact checking” is invariably just another means of editorializing the news; it’s just a shell-game to avert criticism of bias.

      Sadly, it seemed to have worked; I’ve lost count of the number of arguments I’ve had with people who literally refuse to believe a “fact-checker” can be biased; “it’s definitionally impossible” has been used more than once.

  12. James Miller says:

    My article about why Clinton supporters shouldn’t fear a Trump presidency got published in Business Insider and the Independent. I tried to use a bit of this community’s reasoning.

    • lhn says:

      I’m not a Clinton supporter, but “we don’t really mean our commitment to our most central defense alliance, so there’s no harm in saying so out loud” doesn’t make me less inclined to fear a Trump presidency.

      (If Putin were really already certain we wouldn’t lift a finger to defend the Baltics, I expect he’d already have moved into them as he has the other states in the near abroad that failed to toe the line.)

      The Presidency’s comparatively unaccountable military and foreign policy powers concern me much more than domestic policy issues where the courts, state governments, and maybe even Congress could potentially impede bad policy.

      • James Miller says:

        Putin, as I’m sure you know, did move into Ukraine even though we (mostly) promised to protect Ukraine in return for Ukraine giving up its atomic weapons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest_Memorandum_on_Security_Assurances

        • hyperboloid says:

          I hate that I have to keep debunking this myth over and over again. But the Budapest Memorandum never committed the United States, or any other country, to defending Ukraine. I will post the relevant text here:

          1) The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.

          2) The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

          3) The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.

          4) The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.

          5) The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm, in the case of the Ukraine, their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an attack on themselves, their territories or dependent territories, their armed forces, or their allies, by such a state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state.

          6) The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.

          No part of that obliges any country to come to the defense of Ukraine against any conventional threat.

          Now, you may ask why the Ukrainians would agree to giving up their nuclear deterrent in exchange for such a worthless security guarantee; the answer is that, as John Shilling has rightly pointed out, they never truly had a deterrent in the first place . Yes, nuclear warheads were present on their soil, but a complete weapons system capable of meaningful military action was not.

        • John Schilling says:

          We’ve been through this before, and no. The only thing we even “mostly” promised Ukraine, was that we would protect them from nuclear attack. The Ukrainian government openly and explicitly acknowledged this. And, indeed, Ukraine has not been subject to nuclear attack.

          • hyperboloid says:

            And even then our only commitment was to “seek action” from the security council.

            Imagine the scene, a phone rings in New York and…..

            “Hi Boutros, this is Bill. Can I call you Boutros?”

            “Well anyway, here’s the thing, Al was just showing me and Hillary how this new electronic mail, or “E-mail”, he invented works, and we got this news alert form AOL.”

            “The thing is It seems Boris tied one on pretty hard last night, and now Kiev is a smoking crater! Can you call François, and John, I think we might have to get the boys together on this one….. Hil, honey would you mind taping the X-files for me? I think this might be an all nighter.”

          • lhn says:

            Never mind Boutros– how exactly was that supposed to go with a Russian veto on the Security Council again?

            (I’m pretty sure the Russians weren’t going to repeat the mistake that led to UN intervention in Korea.)

    • Spookykou says:

      Imagine that you see a tennis player with a seemingly horrible swing win game after game. Although you don’t understand this guy’s playing style, you shouldn’t conclude that he is too stupid to handle a racket.

      When you look across the net and see a dead cat with a racket taped to its face, you should probably just withhold judgment on his tennis ability altogether.

    • Nyx says:

      Your main thrust seems to be “he won an election, how stupid can he be?”, which is not without merit, but I would point out that for all his “master persuasion” techniques, he did not actually win the popular vote. Unless these advance Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak minded voters in Rust Belt swing states, clearly their power has been overrated.

      • James Miller says:

        He wasn’t trying to win the popular vote. Doing so would have required targeting his persuasion differently. Also, he didn’t just win the election, he won given enormous obstacles including that Access Hollywood recording, the hatred of most of the media, a popular incumbent president that supported his opponent, and the opposition of much of the elite Republican party.

        • Nyx says:

          > Doing so would have required targeting his persuasion differently.

          What on earth does that mean? Maybe you can explain how Trump specifically called Clinton “nasty” in order to win over swing state whites? Would he have called her a nagging shrew if the race was by popular vote, or a cold-hearted whore under the Westminster system, or a heathen wench in the Witenagemot of 10th century England? Does Trump have a whole thesaurus of gendered insults, sorted and evaluated by demographic appeal?

          No, I still don’t buy that Trump is a Jedi Master. It’s so easy to look back and say that gee, that precise insult just there caused a 1% swing in Michigan. Please. If Trump is such a master manipulator, why didn’t he just say the magic words to get 55% of the vote? Or 60%? Why come so close to losing that even your own internal polling estimates your own defeat?

          • Matt M says:

            “Maybe you can explain how Trump specifically called Clinton “nasty” in order to win over swing state whites? ”

            Easy. It’s entirely possible that comments like this (and other “controversial” statements he made) were specifically engineered such that they may have cost him an average of 1.2 votes in California for every 1 vote they gained him in Ohio. But because of the EC, losing 1.2 votes in California is no cost at all – and gaining 1 vote in Ohio is a hugely important win.

            I mean, the media was REALLY REALLY sure that his offensive statements would cause him to lose, and then they didn’t. Perhaps that’s because they evaluated the logic of “offensive statements really turn off voters” based on people they knew in New York and California and never once considered how such statements might actually increase a candidate’s popularity amount working class white males in rust belt states.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Seems pretty straight forward to me. Where you need to go and who you need to convince will be different in a Popular vs EC based election, and these difference will influence a candidate’s strategic choices.

          • Randy M says:

            This is precisely what Trump claims to have done (in a recent tweet mentioned on Steve Sailer’s site). Whether it was luck or skill is left to individual judgement.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I disagree with the Jedi Master theory, too, but since when is “nasty” a gendered insult?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Gobbobobble

            He called her a “nasty woman”, which is obviously gendered. Nobody asked whether he calls men “nasty man”, which I would guess he does. He’s crude and abrasive… towards everyone.

            Amusingly, it appears that Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren called Trump a “nasty man”, though of course she wasn’t termed sexist for it.

            Part of the whole SJW culture war is that saying something in any way opposed to or hostile to a member of a “marginalized group” automatically makes your statement sexist or racist, even if you treat members of “privileged groups” the same way.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. There is no negative adjective he could have used in combination with “woman” that would NOT have resulted in the phrase being deemed sexist.

      • MF says:

        Considering Trump’s campaign was basically a disaster compared to Clinton’s – she massively outspent him *and* put a ton of effort into high-tech ways to target likely voters – I think you’re underestimating to what degree his “master persuasion” techniques were effective. I think the master persuader thesis is a load of crack myself, but losing the popular vote is weak evidence given what he was against.

        I don’t personally know if spending a ton of money actually increases the amounts of votes you get significantly, and the efficacy of the Democrat’s tech is yet to be determined. So *shrug*.

        • Moon says:

          The master persuader thesis is bs. However, you can be sure Trump had people on his team researching how to do negative campaigning against HRC in the most effective way, and that this was some of the advice he actually followed.

          Trump has always been a highly efficient self-promotion machine though. Which I see as somewhat different than being a master persuader, but perhaps others do not see any difference. Self promotion is far easier for brash rich billionaire celebrites. And after they become reality TV stars, that ability increases. It is not a studied ability but a natural personality style.

          Trump has tons of charisma to certian people, because he is “rich white trash” which appeals to the so-called “poor white trash” and to a number of other groups such as people who identify as working class.

          He also was the “change” candidate to people because of his rhetoric about it. So people who were dissatisfied with government and wanted a change– and were naive enough to think that this guy was their best option for that– voted his way.

          He also appeals to very wealthy people who want very low taxes– not due to charisma– but due to their being one issue voters and he is on the right side of their issue.

          Negative campaigning works almost all of the time though, as Newt Gingrich learned, and he applied that learning, decades ago. So just negative campaigning– without any charisma or other persuasion on Trump’s part– may have worked just as well. And Comey and Assange certainly gave Trump ten tons of help in making Hillary look more negative than she actually is in reality.

          Almost nonstop negative impressions of one candidate, but not the other, being fed into voters’ brains, almost guarantees the election of the alternate not-so-negative-seeming candidate.

          The political scientist who saw Trump’s rise coming
          Norm Ornstein on why the Republican Party was ripe for a takeover, what the media missed, and whether Trump could win the presidency.

          http://www.vox.com/2016/5/6/11598838/donald-trump-predictions-norm-ornstein

        • That depends on whether you seen persuasion as a technocratic thong, where you can sell any message with enough money and tech behind it, or something much simpler based on a willingness to say things other people aren’t willing to say.

          • Iain says:

            In the spirit of pointing out typos when they are delightful, allow me to be the first to compliment how good you look in your technocratic thong.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Iain

            Thanks. I still thought TheAncientGeekAKA1Z was making a serious metaphor, and seriously trying to figure it out.

            Maybe ‘thong’ was the elastic part of a slingshot type of weapon, especially with enough power “behind it”. That’s after I discarded the kind of thong you snap at someone you want to seduce. (Which image just now kept me from saying ‘I was still chewing on the thong metaphor’.)

    • Walter says:

      Congratulations man! Well done. That is no small accomplishment.

  13. andrewflicker says:

    My lovely wife has been trying to expand her taste and experience in fantasy/sci-fi fiction. A lot of my recommendations have been from the usual Hugo/Nebula assortment of the last 50 years, but she’s been under a lot of stress studying for the GREs and dealing with her neurotic husband- so any recommendations for well-written, interesting, but relatively-low-stress fantasy or sci fi novels? Bonus points if it’s relatively recent work- I’d prefer not to just go back to Golden Age material or CS Lewis and the like.

    • lhn says:

      Fantasy: Sharon Shinn is pretty much pure comfort read fantasy– sort of the opposite of George R.R. Martin. (And Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor was deliberately written to be just that.) So is a fair amount of Rachel Neumeier’s work, notably her just-released The Mountain of Kept Memory. While it’s a few decades old by now, Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds is just lovely, and is available as an ebook with its two lesser but still enjoyable sequels as The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox.

      Science Fiction: Lois McMaster Bujold’s books are frequently tense for the characters, but I find most of them low-stress reads nonetheless. Becky Chambers The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is Trek meets Firefly meets Mass Effect and is mostly pretty light. Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds is a series of picaresque adventures in a very Star Trek TOS-influenced setting (with a bit of Abrams Trek in the backstory).

    • Incurian says:

      Fantasy:
      Dresden Files are low stress and easy to read (they start off poorly but get better around book 3 or 4).
      Discworld is pretty fun and easy.
      Both series have oodles of books.

      SciFi:
      Snow Crash is good fun.
      Now that I think about it, a lot of scifi really stresses me out.

      • StellaAthena says:

        Warning about Dresden Files: the author clearly has a very tenuous grasp of Chicago geography. If you’re familiar with Chicago you might find this confusing or off-putting (I sure as hell did).

      • andrewflicker says:

        She’s a huge Discworld fan, and has read them all- so good call, even if it doesn’t help here. I turned her on to Snow Crash a few years back, and she enjoyed Diamond Age as well.

        I had the same realization about my scifi habits- it seems I enjoy the “safe” stress on some level.

    • shakeddown says:

      Low-stress: My ultimate fantasy calming books are Earthsea (though they do vary by taste). Other (non-fantasy) that I find incredibly calming is anything by either Murakami or James Herriot.

      • Wander says:

        Earthsea is excellent, one of my favourite settings of all time.
        Unfortunately, the series really seems to follow a linear decrease in quality.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      Is The Butterfly Kid too old? The Xanth series, early middle (CN sexism). Silverlock. I think of all these as not part of any SF period, really.

    • Hummingbird says:

      As far as less-stress goes, short stories are the way to go. They can usually be read in a single sitting, you feel like you finished something each time you read, and you don’t feel bad about not finishing the book in a timely manner.

      For Sci-fi/Fantasy short stories I suggest two collections:
      1. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. I can’t suggest this enough. This is every story (about 10?) Chiang has written over several years, and includes a few Hugos and Nebula winners. About half are sci-fi, and half are speculative fiction involving unsong-esque religious realism. I especially like “Understand”, “Hell is the Absence of God”, “The Tower of Babel” and “Liking What You See: A Documentary”. Some of the best short stories I have ever read.

      2. The Hard SF Renaissance. This is a large collection of great Hard SF stories over the recent few decades. Lots of variety. Memorable favorites are: “Wang’s Carpet”, and “Beggars in Spain”.

      Good luck with the reading, and have fun!

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I like Greg Egan, but I don’t think I’d describe him as a “low-stress” writer!

      • andrewflicker says:

        I’ve read a great deal of these, and while I mostly agree with your taste, they aren’t quite what I meant by low-stress.

        • Hummingbird says:

          I agree that Chiang and Egan (and other writers in the Hard SF Collection) don’t really have a light-hearted writing style.
          But the difficulty and complexity isn’t so high that it stresses me out, like reading a textbook, or a Shakespeare play or something. They are also enveloping to the point of escapism, which as long as you are escaping from something more stressful (GREs were mentioned), this can be de-stressing.

      • Wander says:

        When I first started reading Unsong I was absolutely certain that it had to be inspired by Hell is the Absence of God and 72 Letters. The concepts run together so smoothly.

      • lhn says:

        I think Ted Chiang is the best SF short story writer currently active, and certainly second the recommendation generally. That said, I find many of his stories unsettling to a greater or lesser degree, so I wouldn’t necessarily turn to his work if I wanted to destress.

    • Tracy W says:

      Terry Pratchett.
      Patrica C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer wrote a good three books set in a magical Regency England, if she’s a fan of Jane Austen.
      Mercedes Lackey’s earlier books.
      Steven Brust.
      Kelley Armstrong.

    • StellaAthena says:

      The Name of the Wind and its sequel Wise Man’s Fear is some of the best low fantasy I’ve read in a while. Also seconding Pratchett,Dresden, and Murakami. I personally think kafka on the shore is one of his best.

    • StellaAthena says:

      The Name of the Wind and its sequel Wise Man’s Fear is some of the best low fantasy I’ve read in a while. Also seconding Pratchett,Dresden, and Murakami. I personally think that Kafka on the Shore is one of his best.

    • drethelin says:

      Quozl, or really most of Alan Deal Foster’s books tend to be fairly low stress and fun, while still having interesting premises and being very much in the scifi rather than the scifantasy category (by my lights).

      I also recommend the Jumper series by Peter Gould, The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt, and Kage Baker’s short stories.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Terry Pratchet and Steven Baxter’s Long Earth books are my recommendation for that. They’re not… necessarily good, but they’re very fun and light as a feather

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I tried the first one, and found it was too slow-paced to be interesting.

        It is a good match, though, for James Scott’s ideas about government reach being limited by “friction”– difficulties of travel and communication.

        I recommend Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand as light-hearted sf.

        • herbert herberson says:

          Love to see more people paying attention to James Scott, he’s great!

          They ended the Long Earth series without going too far in the future, but, yeah now I kind of want to write some fanfic that takes place a few thousand years in the future that plays with the endstate of that situation. Long Earth had the government nearly break down due to the ease of exit, but at the end of the day there’s not much friction to prevent new states from arising once the population gets up to a certain density.

    • keranih says:

      How about “more recent but also quasi-classical but also still on-going at a high level of quality”?

      Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe series. A far-future star-system-hopping space opera with giant sentient turtles, tribal loyalties, planetary explorers, mercenaries, life-mates, blood feuds, courtly manners, conflicting moralities, and all sorts of giant sentient things.

      Oh! And Trade. Must not forget the Trade.

      Comes in small stories and sort-of-stand-alone-novels and multi-novel series. I recommend starting with Conflict of Honors and/or Agent of Change.

      Also Doris Egan’s Ivory series (Gate of Ivory) which is an on-planet adventure/romance (but mostly just a romp through Another Culture), Judith Tarr’s A Wind in Cairo (Arabian fantasy) (content note: non-explicit rape, essential to the plot) and the first three or four of Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series. (After that, same warning as for aWiC, except explicit and non-essential.)

      (These are recommended more or less in order – but if one already tried and really disliked Laura K Hamilton, give Briggs a miss. If one kinda liked Hamilton, but thought she went too far with, ah, well, everything, try Briggs, as it might be more to your liking.)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It’s been a while since I’ve read Briggs’ earlier work, but I remember liking her conventional fantasy better than her paranormal romances/urban fantasy.

        • keranih says:

          I liked the theme of the Dragon books better, but her writing was better in the Thompson books.

          (And can I just say that I really wish Thompson was a real mechanic/metal head? Because that side of the character, which is what I thought was a big part of what made her so cool, was never adequately developed.)

          (I know of no way for an author to fix this, outside of working engine repair themselves for pay for months at a time, but still.)

          She has a couple new spin offs from the Thompson series which are less Hamilton-esque, and supposedly pretty good but I have yet to get around to them.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I’m a bit surprised no one’s mentioned Christopher Stasheff’s Warlock series. This was a popular read for me in the 1980s. Maybe it’s not as well known as I’d thought.

      I also think Asimov’s Robot stories are easy to get into; they’re often short, and I don’t think the golden-ageyness of them is a detractor. For that matter, does it have to be SF/F? I find Asimov’s nonfiction to be very readable for anyone who’s into SF/F. Particularly, she might try Adding A Dimension, or Beginnings.

      Other stuff: Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom; Connie Willis’ Bellweather.

    • yodelyak says:

      A nice thing about young adult fiction, as a genre, (and this is someone else’s point, but I can’t figure who) is that young adults still have a foot in a child world, where there is good and evil and a hero and wise elders and imagination is powerful, but also have a foot in the adult world of sex, power, corruption, etc. Young adult can consequently explore both themes. Going forward on my own steam, I might say that young adult as a genre is also somewhat protected from the kind of stress that reading (say) Lolita or Lord of the Flies tends to induce, without having to entirely avoid those topics.
      Temeraire is a young-adult-dragon-story that is quite pleasant.
      The Amulet of Samarkand and subsequent Bartimaeus books are a favorite of mine. I’ve given them as presents to several adults of my acquaintance, so I’ve put money behind that one.

      • shakeddown says:

        I’ve mentioned this before when people mentioned Bartimaeus, but Stroud’s Lockwood &co series probably compares favourably with it (the same general style and originality/fun, but more polished and better planned out). Both are good, though.

    • jdbreck says:

      A fantasy/sci fi writer I enjoy for low-stress reading is Matthew Hughes. I first read his short stories in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and enjoyed those stories enough to seek out his novels. My favorite are the stories about Henghis Hapthorn, an investigator in a far-future Old Earth, who is a scientific person in an age when the world is turning once again to where magic works. The stories are funny and fun.

    • carvenvisage says:

      I would conditionally recommend Steven Brust’s ‘Vlad Taltos’ series*: It’s a bit ‘dark grey’, but much less so than what passes for ‘grey’ nowadays- the protagonist is *genuinely* amoral -not worse, the narration has a lighthearted tone, and the tenor of things is fun, rather than somber or bleak), -so if she’s read game of thrones etc, then it’s like a breeze through a flower filled and rainbow topped meadow.

      -My experience was that it was an extremely easy, and entertaining, read, but I was aware that it might not have been quite as easy if I hadn’t read a lot of so called ‘grey’ stuff beforehand that was actually quite twisted and negative.

      (with the exception of book 3, ‘Teckla’, which centres around the activities of a communist style organisation (which the author is very sympathetic with), through the eyes of our amoral protagonist (who inevitably comes off as a foil for said organisation’s aggrandisement).

      (The books stand so well alone though that you wouldn’t even need to read a plot summarry on wikipedia for continuity)

       

      Also: Tolkien, specifically the hobbit.

       

      edit: also, not a fantasy, ‘the camels are coming’, first book of the biggles series by W.E. Johns. Paints a beautiful picture of the british airforce in ww1, based on the authors experience at the time. Of the three this would be my strongest recommendation.

  14. shakeddown says:

    Question (asking about, um, let’s say a friend): When you get a job offer from a big tech company, should you negotiate? what would you focus on, and what’s a reasonable range to negotiate to (assuming you did particularly well on the interview)?

    • andrewflicker says:

      As in all negotiation, BATNA is crucial. If you’ve got the resume to support job offers from other big tech companies, then definitely angle for a good offer. If this is more in “stroke of luck” territory, take the starting offer and do great work in your first 6 months to angle for a new pay-scale/position.

    • John Schilling says:

      What andrew said. Also, money isn’t the only thing worth negotiating for, or necessarily the most important, but it is what everyone expects you to negotiate for. Depending on what you really value, you might consider accepting their salary offer as is but contingent on their guaranteeing a measure of flex time or an extra week of vacation or a private office or whatnot.

      Given usual tech-company cultural attitudes, I’d put the private office at the top of the list on sanity grounds and defend it on productivity grounds, but as with salary you have to stay within the range of plausibility and if this is your straight-out-of-college job that might not be a plausible demand. But keep an eye on the work environment when you interview, and scale your position accordingly.

    • garrett says:

      I’ve worked for a couple of mega-tech companies, at least one of which I can guarantee you’ve heard of. Figure out what you want, and why. Then get all of the details about the offer. Next, go to sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and find out where the wage is relative to people with similar positions in your area.
      Tech companies have their own bureaucracy. What one company will be willing to negotiate with another will consider fixed. My last company had a hard time recruiting because of a very rigid vacation policy, but getting a larger starting bonus in lieu (which you could use to take “unpaid” time off) was pretty trivial. Some companies might have a fixed dollar amount for salary but are happy to shower you in stock grants (which for a big tech company, you can sell on the open market for cash).

      Things which I’ve seen as negotiable:
      Salary, stock options/grants, starting bonus, vacation schedule, computer equipment (if you demand a Mac but the standard is a PC), working remotely, work schedule (eg. 4-10 vs. 5-8).

      Ultimately, figure out what matters. My first job I was initially offered a starting salary below what I was expecting. I quoted labor statistics and the offer immediately jumped 60%, to above the range I was expecting.
      If the offer comes in as good enough you’d take it, but not great, it’s worth asking once about something. Eg. ask if there’s room to bump the salary by $5,000. If not, you can accept-as-is. If so, you’ve made $5k/year in 30 seconds. Great ROI.
      If the offer comes in as better than you were expecting, say yes before they have an opportunity to change their mind!

    • The Nybbler says:

      Negotiating salary is a bit of a suckers game; if other big companies are anything like IBM (and big companies tend to converge to IBM), each position has a salary band. If you negotiate yourself a higher salary to start, you’ll get smaller increases in the future. If you can actually get a higher level position, that’s a much bigger win, but generally harder to do. Negotiating sign-on bonus or other one-time things is more straightforward. Negotiating vacation can be a big win; many companies you have to wait 5 years to get an extra week.

    • Eric Rall says:

      In my experience, big tech companies generally won’t budge on salary or benefits. Benefits are uniform for all full-time employees in a given region, and salary is calculated based on the job role and seniority level assigned to you by the interview process. There may be a little bit of leeway in salary if you have a competing job offer, but otherwise most companies have a policy of not negotiating salary from their initial offer.

      Where there often is room to negotiate is signing bonus and on-hire stock award. The hiring manager or your HR contact will likely have the authority to sweeten one or both of these by a few thousand dollars in order to close the deal. I’ve successfully negotiated signing bonuses from tech companies twice, once on the basis of a competing offer, and the other time on the basis of having a loan I’d taken out from my 401(k) which I would need to pay back within six months if I changed jobs.

    • Reasoner says:

      You have to negotiate your offer. You have to have to have to HAVE TO. For any given company, you’ll be able to get them to up their offer at least once and potentially thrice. Example: Google upped my offer three times.

      Maximizing Your Donations via a Job

  15. Nyx says:

    At the moment, my cooking ability is laughably rudimentary (I can just about cook two of meat, pasta and eggs, and put them on a plate next to each other). Can anyone recommend a good, simple cookbook?

    • Eltargrim says:

      I don’t know if it’s quite simple enough, but I’ve found that Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is a good combination of recipes and techniques ranging from basic to advanced. It includes a lot of basics, including “how to prepare this vegetable” and “here’s how to use a knife”, and the recipes are typically straightforward. It’s my go-to in my kitchen, and my first stop if I’m looking to try something new.

    • andrewflicker says:

      The web is the best cookbook ever generated.

      • Randy M says:

        This is pretty much true; paper cookbooks are useful to browse for inspiration or to carry around while cooking, but any recipe or lesson is found easily on-line.

    • Hummingbird says:

      I’ve used this cookbook for years, and there are multiple copies within my family.

      I realize that it’s called “Southern Living Cookbook”, but it’s not very southern-themed, and includes a wide range of dishes, both easy and more difficult. It also prefaces each section with detailed instructions on the basics, whether it’s a meat or pie crust. And, since it was written in 1987 it should be easy to find a very cheap copy online.

      https://smile.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0848707095/ref=olp_page_2?ie=UTF8&f_used=true&f_usedAcceptable=true&f_usedGood=true&f_usedLikeNew=true&f_usedVeryGood=true&startIndex=10

      Have fun!

    • sohois says:

      This depends somewhat on what kind of cooking you intend to do, or rather what style of cooking you prefer. Are you looking to just stick to recipes, and get a book with a nice long list of classic recipes, or do you want to learn more about the techniques of cooking, so you can be confident in making up your own dishes and varying what you cook?

      If it’s the latter, I would recommend the cookbook from seriouseats chef J. Kenji Lopez Alt (https://www.amazon.com/Food-Lab-Cooking-Through-Science/dp/0393081087/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479382785&sr=1-1&keywords=kenji+lopez+alt). The style is classic American, but the recipes in the book are largely extremely complicated, such as a Chili requiring 40 ingredients and 3 days preparation. However, I’d still say its very useful for a beginner since the recipes themselves are only a small part of the book; much of it is instead braking down the science behind the recipes and why the various extra ingredients work, which means you can basically just pick out a few innovations and put them into much simpler variations. There are also a lot of guides to things like knife skills, choosing meat and vegetables, deep frying, etc. That being said, the total number of recipes does end up being a little small, so it works best in conjunction with another cookbook so you have more potential dishes to apply the lessons to.

      For the former I’d say it very much depends on what kind of food you like or where you are; I presume you’re an American and looking for an American guide, which I couldn’t offer. My go-to for a long list of recipes in the UK would be Mary Berry’s Complete Cooking (https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Berry-Complete-Cookbook/dp/1405370955/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479383058&sr=1-15&keywords=mary+berry), but obviously a lot of the recipes in it might be different or unknown to an American reader.

    • Dahlen says:

      Look up recipes for stuff on the internet, and follow the directions therein. I for instance use Yummly, it’s a recipe aggregator (with quite a lot of search filters too).

      It doesn’t take a genius to not mess up a recipe too badly, which is why I could manage to remain utterly uninterested in studying cooking techniques in and of themselves, and still ended up a decent cook. I think I own some hardcover Jamie Oliver book or another that discusses cooking techniques, but am generally unfamiliar with its contents. Still, you might want to try it out.

      Some cooking blogs offer tips on e.g. kneading dough, choosing chopping knives, searing meat etc. either within recipes or as separate posts.

      Oh, and by the way — the other cookbook I own is a local one from the 1930s (implicitly addressed to women, obviously), that surprised me in how laconic it was with recipes. It doesn’t discuss quantities, barely touches upon techniques, and many recipes are like “same as the previous recipe, only with ingredient X swapped for Y”. It’s basically assumed that the reader learned all the basic stuff from her mother. And I could still make use of it as a beginner.

    • Deiseach says:

      Delia Smith. How To Cook (online, there’s cookbooks as well as a whole range of gear to go with it but this is fine to start).

      Walks you through everything from how to boil an egg to how to cook Christmas dinner.

      Warning: uses British measurement so you’ll probably need to convert to American. But good basic dishes that even the culinary challenged like me can follow 🙂

  16. Earthly Knight says:

    Scott’s newest post arguing that Trump is not a racist contains no mention of either (a) the years Trump spent promoting the racist birther conspiracy theory about President Obama or (b) Trump’s racist criticism of Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over the Trump University fraud case. No less a social justice warrior than Paul Ryan called the attack on Curiel the “textbook definition of a racist comment.”

    The fact that Scott ignores the two most egregious examples of Trump’s racism seems to me sufficient to refute the post. And what is the evidence Scott cites in defense of his view? That Trump panders to black churches and eats a taco bowl? Is this serious?

    • Acedia says:

      The pandering and taco bowl were used as evidence against his being openly racist, unless I misread.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        “Mexico is great to visit, I’ve been there a few times. I respect all peoples of the world.”

        “I have spoken all over the world and I have great respect for Muslims, I have great respect for the African people, I have respect for the other races. Even back home in Lousiana, I’m called a racist, but I have respect for the Black people of my country and I want them to have their own life, too, and I want them to be able to pursue their own destiny and not be controlled, and not be damaged.”

        Clearly, if talking about how much you love and respect minorities proves that you’re not openly racist, the man who said these things couldn’t be an open racist. It was David Duke? Whoops.

        • Jiro says:

          An individual instance doesn’t prove it, but a pattern does. Scott was giving examples of a pattern.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            David Duke also has a pattern of saying flattering things about other races. This is just how open racists speak in order to make their message more palatable.

    • Sebastian_H says:

      I tend to think that the Curiel case is Trump’s vindictive nature, which is definitely why he shouldn’t be president.

      But if you think Scott forgot key points, it certainly adds to the idea that maybe there was lots of crying wolf which distracts from dealing with the real issues when they are there.

      There definitely seemed to be a scattershot style of media reporting, rather than a good focus which would have been more effective.

      Its true though, there were so many things wrong it was hard to focus on just the worst.

    • Iain says:

      Yeah, birtherism and Curiel are the two giant elephants in the room. (Especially birtherism.) Maybe part of the post is missing? I don’t know how else it is possible to write a post arguing that Trump is not a racist without tackling those two issues head on.

      • suntzuanime says:

        He did the same thing against Ted Cruz, who is considered white and unable to be the target of racism. The Constitution does lay out eligibility requirements for the presidency. It’s not unreasonable to want to verify that they’ve been met.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          He did the same thing against Ted Cruz, who is considered white and unable to be the target of racism.

          Cruz is hispanic. The federal government classifies “hispanic” as an ethnicity rather than a race, but, pretty much universally, bigotry towards hispanics is called racism. Hence, Cruz can indeed be the target of racism.

          It’s not unreasonable to want to verify that they’ve been met.

          Obama’s eligibility for the presidency was proved beyond any shadow of a doubt in 2008, when he released his short-form birth certificate and notices of his birth were located in the archives for the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Trump was still promoting the racist birther lies four years later.

          It is sad that birther apologia is starting to crop up here.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I mean I don’t want to break out the skull-measuring calipers here, but Ted Cruz is AT LEAST as white as George Zimmerman. Look at how the media treated him, even comparing like to like with his fellow Republican candidates Marco Rubio and Ben Carson. If race is a social construct, Ted Cruz was constructed white as hell.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I agree that media accounts which identified George Zimmerman as white, ignoring his hispanic and african ancestry, were inaccurate and manipulative. Bigotry towards hispanics is still racism.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            This subthread is terrible and you all need to lay out what you mean by “racism” and/or taboo it.

        • Iain says:

          The attack on Cruz was significantly different. Everybody agreed on the facts: Cruz was born in Canada to American parents. The wording of the constitution is not specific about the meaning of “natural-born citizen”. Trump filed a lawsuit to see if he could get Cruz thrown out of the race. It failed, so he shut up about it.

          As Earthly Knight says: in Obama’s case, there was clear proof by 2008, before he was even elected. Trump was still spewing falsehoods four years later.

          • I don’t see how “birtherism” was racist. The racial fact is that Obama’s father was African, which everyone agrees on.

            Obama was born very shortly after his mother came back to the U.S. That suggested an obvious and striking story in which a presidential candidate was really not qualified because the facts of his birth had been cleverly altered.

            One of my standard rules of thumb is that one should view with suspicion any historical anecdote that makes a good enough story to have survived on its literary merit. Similarly here. It doesn’t have to be true to have legs.

          • Iain says:

            The story didn’t stand up to even the faintest scrutiny. (His parents published fake birth announcements in two newspapers with the expectation that their son would someday run for president?) It had legs because it appealed to white people searching for a way to dismiss the legitimacy of a black president with an unusual name.

            But don’t take it from me. Take it from Michael Steele, former RNC chair, on Breitbart.com.

          • JulieK says:

            It had legs because it appealed to white people searching for a way to dismiss the legitimacy of a black president with an unusual name.

            How do you know they specifically objected to having a black president, as opposed to some other factor such as having a left-wing president?

          • keranih says:

            There was also evidence (ie, autobiographical blurbs in published books) that as a student, Obama tried to play up his Kenyan (vs American) heritage, to the point of contemporaries actually thinking he had been born in Kenya.

            Of course, this – even if true – no more disqualified Obama from being a candidate than did John McCain’s birth in the Panama Canal Zone to a military family. But it didn’t stop people from making the charge that McCain was ineligible, either.

            Given that this is a repeat of a charge laid against a Caucasian, I’m failing to see this as inherently racist. Sure, a racist person might make that charge against Obama, but a racist person might note that the sky is blue, as well.

          • bean says:

            Of course, this – even if true – no more disqualified Obama from being a candidate than did John McCain’s birth in the Panama Canal Zone to a military family. But it didn’t stop people from making the charge that McCain was ineligible, either.

            That’s not actually true. US law at the time placed certain restrictions on blood citizenship that his mother didn’t meet. I believe they had to have lived in the US for 5 years continuously after reaching age 15 for children born abroad to gain citizenship, and his mother was 19 when he was born.
            (I’m not defending this law, which seems very poorly implemented even as a way of stopping someone who has never lived in the US passing on their citzenship. But it was the law at the time AFAIK.)

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Of course, this – even if true – no more disqualified Obama from being a candidate than did John McCain’s birth in the Panama Canal Zone to a military family. But it didn’t stop people from making the charge that McCain was ineligible, either.

            Do you really not see the difference between questioning the eligibility of a candidate who was born in Panama and questioning the eligibility of a candidate who was born in Hawaii? Have you ever looked at a map?

          • bean says:

            Do you really not see the difference between questioning the eligibility of a candidate who was born in Panama and questioning the eligibility of a candidate who was born in Hawaii? Have you ever looked at a map?

            Did you miss the qualifier ‘if true’ in his statement? He was asserting that if Obama had been born in Kenya (and nobody here is seriously asserting that he was) he would still have been a citizen by blood. (This isn’t true, but it seems like it should be.)

          • Earthly Knight says:

            That was part of what keranih was saying. The other part is that the questions about Obama’s eligibility couldn’t be rooted in racism because similar questions have arisen for white candidates like McCain. But this ignores that in the case of McCain the questions were at least serious, while for Obama they were never more than baseless fantasies driven by the racist fear of seeing a black man with a foreign-sounding name rise to power.

          • bean says:

            But this ignores that in the case of McCain the questions were at least serious, while for Obama they were never more than baseless fantasies driven by the racist fear of seeing a black man with a foreign-sounding name rise to power.

            Begging the question. Have you ever actually known any birthers? I have, and all of them seemed genuinely worried that Obama was born in Kenya. They may be factually wrong, and are almost certainly engaging in motivated reasoning, but they weren’t simply motivated by fear of a black President. (I think they’d have been OK with Ben Carson. Yes, I’m sure you’ll claim that doesn’t count.)

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Your birther pals, were they ever worried that Romney was secretly born in Windsor? Why not?

          • Evan Þ says:

            I know some birthers too, and for a while (before 2011, when Obama actually released his long-form birth certificate) I was sort of one myself. That was before Romney, but we were worried about Obama specifically because – most significantly – he hadn’t released all his birth certificates despite numerous people demanding that he do so. Why in the world would he refuse, I asked myself, unless he had something to hide?

            “Politician we’re tribally primed to disagree with does something suspicious” can explain a whole lot without bringing in racism at all. Looking back, I have every reason to think we would’ve have reacted to Kerry or Clinton or Gore doing something equally suspicious in the exact same way.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I’m curious what you think about America’s first Canadian President, Chester A. Arthur.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            he hadn’t released all his birth certificates despite numerous people demanding that he do so. Why in the world would he refuse, I asked myself, unless he had something to hide?

            But why did the “numerous people” demanding that Obama release his long-form birth certificate– he had already released the short-form certificate by this point– never place similar demands on any white presidential candidate from either party who was unequivocally born on American soil? What is it about Obama that made him different from everyone else?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Earthly Knight, as far as I knew up until today, every other President or candidate already had released their birth certificate without any hesitancy or controversy? From a quick web search, that appears to not in fact be the case – but absolutely no one on either side mentioned it at the time.

        • The Nybbler says:

          There was also a similar bit of controversy around Dick Cheney. It had to do with whether Bush and Cheney were both residents of Texas and therefore electors could not vote for both. Cheney claimed to be a resident of Wyoming. Even after the court case was settled, people would put up all sorts of claims that Cheney cheated to get the Vice Presidency, often quoting a section about residency in the Fish and Game section of Wyoming law (without, of course, mentioning that it applied only to Fish and Game).

    • Nyx says:

      That’s not the point. You can, if you like, find displays of “racism” from Reagan, and Clinton, and Bush 41 and Bush 43, and probably every President at some point. And hell, maybe they are racist. What they aren’t is Greater Openly White Supremacist+1. That’s the criticism that’s been trotted out regularly against Trump, mere “racism” having lost its bite. Trump is kind of racist, in the kind of clueless way that you are when you’re totally insulated from other races. The variety that causes you to think that eating taco bowls is going to impress Latinos. Which isn’t a great trait but is unlikely to be the foundation for a new ethno-nationalist regime. Hitler didn’t try eating latkes to impress Jews, I can tell you that.

    • Well... says:

      a) I keep hearing that Hillary made up the birther thing back when she was running against Obama. Is that wrong? I don’t really know. In any case, it never struck me as inherently racist even if it was genuine. Can anyone explain that? Someone else used the example of Trump questioning the legitimacy of Ted Cruz, but if the argument is that was racist too, then isn’t that just equating racism with the null hypothesis?

      b) The way I heard it (and again, please correct me if I’m wrong) was that since Trump knew that some of his campaign rhetoric had offended a lot of Hispanics, and since Trump had good reason to think that Curiel was one of those offended Hispanics (apart from being of Mexican extraction, Curiel was also involved in a Hispanic immigrant lobby, or something…maybe another SSC reader can fill in the details), Trump claimed that Curiel couldn’t objectively decide the case. I see an obvious reason why Trump might have been wrong to say that (Curiel is a professional judge who can put his personal feelings aside) but I don’t see why that obviously makes Trump a racist.

      PS. Scott, I thought your Stop Crying Wolf piece was one of the best posts of yours I’ve ever read.

      • StellaAthena says:

        Trump kept peddling the idea that Hilary invented it, or people working for her did. AFAIK that has no basis in the truth.

        • gbdub says:

          There does not seem to be any direct connection to the Hillary campaign, but it may have started among Hillary supporters, and its initial polarity was during Hillary’s primary campaign against Obama. There were certainly a non-zero number of pro-Hillary birthers.

          None of which excuses Trump’s birtherism. But I also don’t think birtherism is sufficient for the super duper racism Trump is accused of. Obama’s biography is unusual – part of my annoyance with birtherism is that it’s overshadowed a lot of interesting discussion over Obama’s backstory (not that he hides it, it’s in his book).

      • Deiseach says:

        I keep hearing that Hillary made up the birther thing back when she was running against Obama. Is that wrong?

        It possibly arose out of polling back in 2008 that her campaign did on Obama and McCain etc to test what were the areas of vulnerability.

        They said (in regard to Obama) that it was to find out and defend against areas of vulnerability, to which I say “Yes, I would be interested in buying that desirable bridge you’re selling”. They didn’t start the rumours but they would have been happy to take advantage of any bad PR for Obama, since Hillary would have stepped over his bleeding dead body to graciously accept the nomination as the Democratic candidate for president then. (And in 2012. And, as we all saw, in 2016):

        * 7 Obama (owe-BAHM-uh)’s father was a Muslim and Obama grew up among Muslims in the world’s most populous Islamic country.

        …”We could not coordinate with either campaign, and worked to prepare to defend either candidate in the general election,” Begala explained in an email. “It was called ‘McCain survey’ because it was designed to test attacks that might come in the general election. Our entire focus was the general election. Both Obama and Clinton supporters were, at the time, concerned the eventual nominee would emerge wounded and vulnerable for the general election.”

      • Earthly Knight says:

        I keep hearing that Hillary made up the birther thing back when she was running against Obama. Is that wrong? I don’t really know. In any case, it never struck me as inherently racist even if it was genuine. Can anyone explain that?

        The birther conspiracy theories are racist for exactly the same reason that claiming that some jewish politician feeds on the blood of gentile children is racist. The blood libel is plausible only if you buy into a rigid, irrational and negative stereotype of jews according to which they are parasites who deceive and victimize their christian hosts. Similarly, the birther theories are plausible only if you buy into a rigid, irrational and negative stereotype of non-white immigrants and their descendants which says they can never be real Americans (no matter what their birth certificates say!) because America is a nation for whites.

        and since Trump had good reason to think that Curiel was one of those offended Hispanics (apart from being of Mexican extraction, Curiel was also involved in a Hispanic immigrant lobby, or something…maybe another SSC reader can fill in the details), Trump claimed that Curiel couldn’t objectively decide the case.

        Trump claimed that Curiel wasn’t adjudicating the case impartially, and inferred that this must be because the judge had Mexican heritage and was therefore automatically biased against him. As far as I know, there was never any independent evidence that Curiel was offended by Trump’s policy proposals, and, even if there were, Curiel’s being offended does not have anything to do with his ethnicity.

        • bean says:

          Similarly, the birther theories are plausible only if you buy into a rigid, irrational and negative stereotype of non-white immigrants which says they can never be real Americans (no matter what their birth certificate says!) because America is a nation for whites.

          This predicts that Ben Carson’s supporters would have been much less likely to be birthers than other Republicans. Interestingly enough, that data exists (see page 14). And more interestingly still, Carson’s supporters were more likely than the Republican average to say that Obama had not been born in the US. Less so than Trump’s, but more than Cruz’s or Bush’s.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Tell me, of democrats who think that the nation is secretly controlled by a shadowy cabal of jewish elites, do you think more voted for Clinton or for her opponent, the jewish senator from Vermont? It’s probably a mistake to expect purveyors of racist conspiracy theories to be consistent, or to be single-issue voters.

          • bean says:

            It’s probably a mistake to expect purveyors of racist conspiracy theories to be consistent, or to be single-issue voters.

            You know what, I’m not even going to bother with a long reply. I don’t think it’s likely to be worth it. What evidence would convince you that birtherism isn’t actually racist?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You might start by showing how the birther conspiracy theory is in any respect different than directing the blood libel at a jewish politician.

          • bean says:

            How is accusing someone of racism not like blood libel?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Is that a serious question or are you vying for a spot in one of those compilations of ridiculous shit slatestarcodex commenters say?

          • Spookykou says:

            @Earthly Knight

            It seems to me that a key difference would be what is implied versus what is expressly stated.

            In blood libel you have someone stating that they think a group of people murder and eat their children.

            A birther is stating that they think somebody might not have been born in America. You read an implication in this that the person thinks that only white people can be true Americans, but importantly this is not actually stated directly in birther ideation(from what I understand).

            This difference between these two things is actually so large, it is hard for me to imagine you are arguing in good faith, unless I am just profoundly confused about what the birther conspiracy was.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            In blood libel you have someone stating that they think a group of people murder and eat their children.

            The case I gave involved directing the blood libel at a specific jewish politician, so this is no good. Say that one of Trump’s supporters accused Bernie Sanders of bathing in the blood of gentile children (if this sounds far-fetched to you, remember that some of Clinton’s campaign staff were being accused of ritual satanism two weeks ago). Is this different than what Trump did to Obama? Why?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Blood libel has gotten people killed. Birther theories haven’t.

            There’s a difference between an accusation of fraud and an accusation of murder.

            Also, blood libel plays into a stereotype of Jews as treacherous.

            Birtherism plays into a stereotype of blacks as outsiders in the US, but I think that’s a vaguer thing.

          • Spookykou says:

            I see, in that case.

            There is nothing implicitly racists in a person thinking that another person was not born in the United States of America.

            Your belief that the only way somebody could hold this view is if they were racist is not an objective fact about reality that you should assume all other people hold.

            This is technically also true of ALL racist statements of the form you are talking about. “So and So eats babies” is not implicitly racist(the statement itself makes no reference to race), it is assumed to be racist because of historical context. (see confused Europeans getting yelled at for black face costumes).

            But even accepting this, between the two things I think the vast majority of reasonable people would think that accusing a person of murdering and eating Christian children is more likely motivated by racial animus than accusing a person of not really being born in America.

            Obviously these are ‘fuzz’ areas, but again the fact that you seem to think you can equivocate between them is shocking. You must exist in a social environment that is so radically different from my own it is hard for me to even imagine it, for you to honestly try and argue there is no difference between the historical context and racial use of BLOOD LIBEL and the birther conspiracy.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Blood libel has gotten people killed. Birther theories haven’t.
            There’s a difference between an accusation of fraud and an accusation of murder.

            I don’t see how either of these suggestions could explain why blood libels against a specific politician are racist while birtherism is not. Can a conspiracy theory only be racist if it leads to someone’s death? That doesn’t make any sense. Could a conspiracy theory only be racist if it accuses someone of a more serious crime than fraud? That also seems doubtful.

            Birtherism plays into a stereotype of blacks as outsiders in the US, but I think that’s a vaguer thing.

            The stereotype is that non-whites with foreign-sounding names aren’t real Americans. This is pretty common, it’s why (for instance) people of east Asian descent constantly get asked where they’re from, and are met with incredulity when they respond “New York” or “San Francisco.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            This is technically also true of ALL racist statements of the form you are talking about. “So and So eats babies” is not implicitly racist(the statement itself makes no reference to race), it is assumed to be racist because of historical context. (see confused Europeans getting yelled at for black face costumes).

            Okay. I’m happy to assent to the conditional that if directing the blood libel towards a jewish politician is not racist, then the birther conspiracy theories about Obama are not racist, because I know that pretty much everyone will think the antecedent is false.

          • Spookykou says:

            I’m happy to assent to the conditional that if directing the blood libel towards a jewish politician is not racist, then birther conspiracy theories are not racist

            I am very clearly saying that ‘so and so eats babies’ is only contextually racist, seeing as how you are already loading the context back into the statement, your subconscious agrees with me, even if you are trying very hard not to argue in good faith.

            I want you to imagine something.

            A ‘I think Earthly Knight eats boogers!’

            B ‘No I don’t!’

            How much racism was involved in this exchange?

            Now lets imagine the exact same thing again, only Earthly Knight and I live in the same town in the same country, and Earthly Knight is Green, and I am Brown, and for a thousand years the Browns accused the Greens of eating boogers and murdered their men, raped their women, and sold their children into slavery, but we made peace a hundred years ago.

            A ‘I think Earthly Knight eats boogers!’

            B ‘No I don’t!’

            How much racism was involved in this exchange?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I agree that the historical context is part of what makes the blood libel racist. But I don’t see how that’s any different from the birther conspiracy theories. The stereotype that non-whites with foreign-sounding names aren’t real Americans has been kicking around for decades or centuries now, too. (See, for instance, the Japanese internment).

          • Spookykou says:

            I have already covered this.

            Obviously these are ‘fuzz’ areas, but again the fact that you seem to think you can equivocate between them is shocking. You must exist in a social environment that is so radically different from my own it is hard for me to even imagine it, for you to honestly try and argue there is no difference between the historical context and racial use of BLOOD LIBEL and the birther conspiracy.

            and yes, I am still shocked, but to try and unpack this a little bit.

            First, blood libel is an expressly racial idea, it is a specific doctrine which states ‘group of people murder and eat our children’.

            The Birther Conspiracy does not come from any doctrine, it is not an intentionally taught belief structure, you will not find old books talking about it, Birthirsm was exclusively the belief that Barack Obama was not actually born in the United States of America.

            You can not directly tie

            The stereotype that non-whites with foreign-sounding names aren’t real Americans

            to Birtherism even if you think there is an implied connection.

            That in and of itself is a very important distinction when trying to determine the context of a racially charged belief.

            However, in an effort to argue in good faith, I will now assume that the stereotype that non-whites with foreign-sounding names aren’t real Americans is directly related to the Birtherism conspiracy.

            First, you are mistaken if you think that non-whites is actually a factor here, the belief that a person who appears foreign is foreign is not based on any normally understood racial lines. Blond haired blue eyed pale as the freshly driven snow Sven with a thick Swedish accent will be asked ‘where do you comes from’ by the same people who ask random Asian Americans where they come from. This is vaguely ethnocentric, and your anthropology professor will tell you it’s terrible, but its really stretching ‘racist’ pretty thin.

            Blood Libel on the other hand, is expressly targeting a racial group, is not vague at all, and is clearly a racist doctrine.

            Second, you are deeply uncharitable if you assume that every instance of ‘where do you come from’ is motivated by some sort of racial ideology and malice. Is it really so hard to believe that this is often just a social fopaux by people trying to make small talk and express an interest in the people around them?

            Blood Libel on the other hand is never, not ever, a social fopaux by people trying to make small talk and express an interest in the people around them.

            Even if I agree that the particular behavior of asking foreign appearing people where they are from is directly linked to the Birtherism Conspiracy in the same way that the long history of blood libel is directly linked to accusing a person of eating children(I don’t, if anyone is wondering)

            I still find the fact that you seem to think you can equivocate between them shocking. That you are truly incapable of appreciating the massive difference between the historical context and use of, blood libel and ‘where are you from’ beggars belief.

            P.S. Japanese internment camps had nothing to do with ‘where are you from’ ideation, they were viewed as “enemy aliens” as were the Italians and Germans who also found themselves in internment camps

            Edit: Preemptive additional clarification. I started responding after reading this comment,

            You might start by showing how the birther conspiracy theory is in any respect different than directing the blood libel at a jewish politician.

            To me, it is not obvious that the birther conspiracy is racial motivated, but as I said above, even assuming it is there is a huge difference between the two. Racism, as you have acknowledges is contextual, and not all racism is created equally.

            If a bunch of white men surround a black man alone at a truck stop, throwing racial slurs and talking about trees and rope. Then the man is probably terrified for his life, and there is an unquestionable racial malice behind the white mens actions.

            If a fourteen year old white girl asks the Asian American sitting next to her to help her with her math homework, because ‘of course he is good at math’ then yeah, that is a racial stereotype, but no, it is not the same thing as the example above. You can’t equivocate between the two of them and say one is as bad as the other.

            I hope those examples more clearly define the difference I see, and that I had always assumed most people saw, between things like blood libel, and asking somebody ‘where are you from’.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Blond haired blue eyed pale as the freshly driven snow Sven with a thick Swedish accent will be asked ‘where do you comes from’ by the same people who ask random Asian Americans where they come from.

            Yeah, Asian-Americans get asked these sort of questions even if they were born here. I mean, I’ve personally witnessed this scores or hundreds of times in my life. (Haven’t you?) On the other hand, white Americans with exotic-sounding surnames are seldom subjected to the same sort of interrogation. I say this as a white American with an exotic-sounding surname.

            Blood Libel on the other hand is never, not ever, a social fopaux by people trying to make small talk and express an interest in the people around them.

            You are badly confused about the dialectic here. The comparison is between the blood libel (directed at a specific politician) and the birther conspiracy theory. No one goes around accusing people of being secret Kenyans perpetrating an elaborate fraud in the course of making small talk, either. The example of Asian-Americans being questioned about their place of birth was just to cite another concrete manifestation of the stereotype that non-white immigrants and their descendants don’t count as full Americans, in case there was any doubt that this stereotype exists and is fairly commonly held. Many more examples could be given, although I’m probably not going to bother if you’re seriously suggesting that racism played no role in the Japanese internment.

          • Spookykou says:

            You are badly confused about the dialectic here. The comparison is between the blood libel (directed at a specific politician) and the birther conspiracy theory.

            I am comparing the context, I don’t actually think that the vague notion that foreign appearing people might be foreign is particularly racist, or particularly linked to the Birther conspiracy, but since you are asserting that it is, the ‘racist context’ of the birther conspiracy is “where are you from” style comments and feelings which needs to be compared to the ‘racist context’ of “so and so eats babies” which is blood libel if I am to illustrate how they are different. The historical context for one, is very clearly an aggressive, negative, intentional racial attack, that brooks no compromise and has been passed down from generation to generation for the purpose of spreading hate. The historical context for the other is a vaguely uncomfortable possibly racially insensitive social habit of middle aged white people. The difference between these two things, should be clear.

            Which is a direct response to a question you asked, and my primary problem with what you have been saying…

            seriously suggesting that racism played no role in the Japanese internment.

            Constantly with the worst possible interpretation of what somebody else says to you. My point about the internment camps is that it is not a coincidence that they happened very shortly after the US and Japan went to war. It was not a policy based on some ‘foreign looking people are not American’ idea, please try and remember the myriad of foreign people living in the US at the time, just as ‘foreign’ as the Japanese Americans, who did not end up in camps. I was certainly not trying to say that the extent,nature, and practices at the camps where not driven by good old fashioned Racism, but, to be clear, you do know that Racism, and thinking a foreign person is not an American, are not actually the same thing. I actually know and have spoken to racist people, and they say some pretty terrible shit, but I actually have not met one who held the rather strange notion that foreign people could not be American Citizens. In case you did not know this, assuming that a foreign appearing person is foreign, is not actually the same thing as thinking it is impossible for foreign appearing people to be American Citizens because they are not white.

            As a poor Mexican American who is constantly misidentified as white, I don’t really assume that people get my ethnicity wrong out of malice, and I try not to hold it against them that they assume I am white, although it is frustrating when they try to share their racist opinions on Mexicans with me.

          • Matt M says:

            re: internment camps

            I’m far from an expert on this, but is it not true that…

            a) They were designed to be limited to Japanese only. While I’m sure some others were mistakenly rounded up, the intent was for Chinese, Filipino, etc. to not have to be interred – despite clearly being racially distinct from white Americans.

            b) They were only instituted on the west coast. That Japanese in parts of the country where they were a small enough minority to not pose any sort of threat as a critical mass may have been badgered by the government, but were not kicked out of their homes.

          • Spookykou says:

            Matt M

            You are mostly correct, but the US also did interned some Italians and Germans, not in the same numbers as the Japanese though.

            Edit, Several other countries also had internment camps during WWII Australia, Canada, etc.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            the ‘racist context’ of the birther conspiracy is “where are you from” style comments and feelings

            Do you think that this exhausts the historical context of the stereotype that non-white immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real Americans? If not, you will need to include the rest of the historical context to accurately compare it to the blood libel. If so, uh…

            It was not a policy based on some ‘foreign looking people are not American’ idea, please try and remember the myriad of foreign people living in the US at the time, just as ‘foreign’ as the Japanese Americans, who did not end up in camps.

            Right. The Japanese internment was caused jointly by the outbreak of war with Japan and the stereotype that Japanese-Americans, being non-white immigrants and their descendants, were specially suspicious and unamerican. Do you agree with this assessment?

          • Matt M says:

            spookykou,

            I think that supports my point – that internment was based primarily on factors other than “let’s round up all those people who look and act different from us”

            Chinese look and act different – but were not interred. Italians look and act similar – but were.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            A whopping 418 Italian-Americans were interned during the second world war. Compare to 110,000 Japanese-Americans. What accounts for the difference, I wonder?

          • Spookykou says:

            Do you think that this exhausts the historical context of the stereotype that non-white immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real Americans

            I am saying ‘where are you from’ while a form of stereotyping is hardly overt racism. I hesitate to even call it racism, racially insensitive maybe. It was one of two examples you gave to support the idea that non-white foreign appearing people are not considered real Americans, the other was the Japanese Internment camps. Of course, I am sure you know the Canadians had Japanese Internment camps, I am not sure how much they cared about who was or was not a Real American. Maybe, it had very little to do with America and foreign appearing people in general, and more to do with normal Racism, and being at war with Japan.

            I think you are trying to construct this new racist paradigm of non-white immigrants are not real Americans, and I don’t think it is really a thing. It doesn’t have a clan, or a movement, people don’t have a word for it, or even a word for this group of people who are targeted by it. All red flags that it might not be a real thing(not proof though). I think what you are grasping at is just Xenophobia. The problem with xenophobia is that every other thing is xenophobic, the left is xenophobic about the right, the right is xenophobic about the left. New York isn’t the Real America, or wait, New York is the Real America, I actually can’t remember where we finally landed on that one. (notice the ‘real america’ language). The fact that the Birther Movement has Xenophobic undertones, means that you can literally link every single historical example of Xenophobia as ‘historical context’ for how ‘racist’ the Birthers must be, but I am sorry, I am not buying it.

            Now, lets move onto my only real point. Please list whatever you think the actual historical context of your ‘non-white immigrants not considered real Americans’ looks like, and then list out the historical context for blood libel. Then compare the two on a few things.

            Are they both as concrete and defined historically, see if one is a bunch of vague personal interpretations and implications of events and the other is a bunch of hate groups who actually publish literally blood libel.

            See how many people you think died or suffered because of the historical context (this will not be light reading, and goes back quite a few years, but I trust you can handle it)

            If you personally had to experience both, which do you think would make you more uncomfortable.

            If after looking into it, you still think that ‘Non-white immigrants not being considered real Americans’ should have an equal weight with blood libel, then I am sorry, I tried really hard to explain to you how these two things are not the same as best I could and I failed.

          • Sandy says:

            What accounts for the difference, I wonder?

            Italy didn’t commit a war crime on US soil that killed a couple of thousand Americans? I’m also not sure there was an Italian equivalent to the Niihau incident.

            Also, Americans of Chinese and Filipino descent were not thrown into internment camps; in fact many Chinese and Filipinos were granted US citizenship for joining anti-Japanese battalions. Most of them would also qualify as non-whites with foreign-sounding names.

            I don’t doubt that there was a racial component to it all, but another component was that there was a fascist Japanese empire across the Pacific trying to kill Americans, which in fact had already succeeded in killing thousands of Americans, and which was trying to get Japanese US residents and Japanese-ancestry citizens to kill more Americans.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Spookykou

            Of course, I am sure you know the Canadians had Japanese Internment camps, I am not sure how much they cared about who was or was not a Real American.

            Jesus. Obviously, the relevant stereotype in the case of Canada would be that non-white immigrants don’t qualify as real Canadians. Since you’ve decided to bring up other countries, though, let’s not stop halfway. Let’s strip the references to America out of the stereotype I claimed was responsible for the birther conspiracy theory, and look at the schema in historical context.

            Racist nationalism schema: [Country] is a [dominant race] nation, non-[dominant race] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [country demonym].

            We had, as one instance of the schema:

            [America] is a [white] nation, non-[white] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [Americans].

            Here’s another one we’re all familiar with:

            [Nazi Germany] is an [aryan] nation, non-[aryan] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [Germans].

            Here’s another:

            [Cambodia] is a [Khmer] nation, non-[Khmer] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [Cambodians].

            And here’s an instance that’s currently causing a genocide:

            [Myanmar] is a [Burman] nation, non-[Burman] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [Burmese].

            Do you still want to claim that this “new racist paradigm” is something I “constructed” which has no historical significance?

          • Spookykou says:

            I covered this in the comment that you are directly replying to.

            The fact that the Birther Movement has Xenophobic undertones, means that you can literally link every single historical example of Xenophobia as ‘historical context’ for how ‘racist’ the Birthers must be, but I am sorry, I am not buying it.

            And wow, you just go ahead and make a list of all the worst examples you can think of for Xenophobic or Nationalist belief. Maybe you are not getting my point, which is not that Xenophobia is not bad, and it is not that Xenophobia is not real, it is that Xenophobia is so overly broad, that the paradigm you are trying to create allows you to,

            call Birthers

            [Nazi Germany] is an [aryan] nation, non-[aryan] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [Germans].

            literally Nazi’s.

            But why stop at Birthers, using your definitions, anything that even SOUNDS like nationalism or xenophobia can be called, literally Nazi’s.

            Any person who want to reduce immigration, literally Nazi’s

            Any person who doesn’t want open boarders, literally Nazi’s

            Any person who has ever used the phrase ‘True Americans’ or ‘Real Americans’ (used to refer to people or ideas, not in an explanatory way as we have in this conversation, don’t fret), literally Nazi’s

            Any person who does not believe that their country should immediately adopt the most atomized and globalized positions it is possible for them to adopt, you guessed it, literally Nazi’s.

            Birtherism, the belief that Barack Obama was not born in the US, does not implicitly make any reference to race. To say the same thing, again, so that maybe you will read it. The paradigm you are trying to create, lets you ascribe every single horrible xenophobic or nationalist thing in the history of the world, to Birtherism. This is overly broad, and not even kind of useful.

            But yeah, well, that’s just like, my opinion, man.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            One data point: I asked a birther what he thought would happen if Obama were found to not be a natural born American, and the birther hadn’t thought about. I think think this is good evidence that the birther community also hadn’t thought that far ahead, since the person I was talking with seemed to know a lot of details about birtherism.

            This doesn’t prove racism, but it does suggest that there was specific animus towards Obama rather than any sort of thought about practicality.

            Arguably this is just how deontological thinking looks– there’s a rule (laws are important) and that’s what counts.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            And wow, you just go ahead and make a list of all the worst examples you can think of for Xenophobic or Nationalist belief.

            No, I suggested a list of historically significant events which were caused by either (a) the racist stereotype I identified as being responsible for the birther movement or (b) one strictly equivalent to it with only the nationality and dominant ethnic group having been changed.

            In your zeal to deny that racism animated the birthers, you ended up claiming that I, personally, constructed the notion of racist nationalism, that it had never actually appeared in history before today. Congratulations, that’s got to be one of the most profoundly stupid things anyone has ever said on this website.

          • Spookykou says:

            I covered this in the comment you are directly responding to

            Maybe you are not getting my point, which is not that Xenophobia is not bad, and it is not that Xenophobia is not real, it is that Xenophobia is so overly broad, that the paradigm you are trying to create allows you to, call birthers …literally Nazi’s

            I guess I can understand how you got confused.

            I floated two ideas a few comments ago, either you are constructing a NEW paradigm, that directly involves the word ‘american’. Which might have been unreasonable, except you only ever referred to america for a while, and all of your examples were american examples. But this paradigm does have the added advantage of being potentially more directly linked to Birtherism, if it was a real thing.

            I think you are trying to construct this new racist paradigm of non-white immigrants are not real Americans

            OR

            You are just trying to ascribe xenophobia(read racism, nationalism, racist nationalism, all great examples of xenophobia) to birthers.

            The fact that the Birther Movement has Xenophobic undertones, means that you can literally link every single historical example of Xenophobia as ‘historical context’ for how ‘racist’ the Birthers must be, but I am sorry, I am not buying it.

            I am not saying that racism and nationalism are not things, I am not saying racial nationalism is not a thing. I am saying, for like the tenth time now, the paradigm you are trying to create is overly broad. Lets look closely at your own words.

            the racist stereotype I identified

            aha, your subconscious comes to save the day once more.

            [Nazi Germany] is an [aryan] nation, non-[aryan] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [Germans].

            Is not actually a word replace for.

            Barack Obama was not born in the United States of America.

            It is a word replace for a position you ascribed to that position, the position that you ascribed to birtherism can just as easily be ascribed to almost any position that even hints at nationalist or xenophobic things, seeing as how you ascribed it to something that literally makes no reference to xernophobic or nationalist things this should not surprise you. On its face, Barack Obama was not born in the United States of America, is a vaguely legal claim, that he does not have a right to be president.

            To clarifiy incase you still don’t get it.

            ‘I want to address the problems of Real America’

            [America] is an [christian] nation, non-[christian] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [Americans].

            Well that sure looks like racist nationalism, I guess that person is a Nazi, good thing I noticed the insidious connection. Or maybe, it is really easy to apply
            [country] is an [group] nation, non-[group] immigrants and their descendants don’t count as real [country].

            To anything that, wait I have a quote for this,

            SOUNDS like nationalism or xenophobia

            P.S. Oh, and I am not even trying to argue that the Birther movement wasn’t racist in some way, my whole point is that the historical context of the birther movement=/= the historical context of blood libel, and in your attempt to say that the Birther movement was motivated by the same level of hate and racism as blood libel, you have tried to construct a paradigm that lets you apply Nazi Germany as a historical context to anything that even looks kind of nationalist, which in my opinion is overly broad and not useful.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I am not saying racial nationalism is not a thing.

            Great. So you agree that racist nationalism exists, that it has been common and important throughout history, and that the attitude that non-white immigrants to America and their descendants are suspiciously foreign is an instance of it? And do you see, also, how being irrationally certain that a black man with a foreign-sounding name couldn’t have been born in this country, no matter what his birth certificate says, could be a manifestation of this attitude?

          • Spookykou says:

            So, my edit covers this, but I will also post a reply.

            Do you think my hypothetical ‘Real American’ and their followers ‘could be a manifestation of this attitude?’ Maybe? We have the same evidence in both cases. The worst possible interpretation of their stated belief looks like racist nationalism. I am certainly willing to believe that some birthers are actually racist.

            I have always been responding to your claim that so and so eats babies = birtherism.

            We agreed that both are contextual

            I have since then been trying to make the claim that not all racism is created equally, and the historical context around so and so eats babies =/= the historical context around birtherism.

            You are trying to link birtherism through it’s xenophobic and nationalist pattern matching, to all racist nationalism through all of history, but importantly, this link is fundamentally manufactured. As I clearly stated, birtherism has xenophobic undertones, this does not mean that it is motivated by the same kinds of feelings and beliefs that motivated Nazi Germany, it does not engender the same feelings in the victims victim, you can’t just assume that any example of xenophobia is Nazi level bad.

            To ask you a question, How likely is it, or what percentage of birthers do you think hold deep genuine hate for all non-white immigrants?

            What percentage of people who hear the birther platform, understand it as genuine hate for all non-white immigrants?(feel free to reference this thread)

            How likely is it, or what percentage, of people who engage in blood libel, do you think hold a deep genuine hate for Jews?

            What percentage of people who hear blood libel, understand it as genuine hate for all Jews(feel free to reference this thread)

            It is not my intention to claim that racism is not involved in birtherism, just like I would not deny that racism is involved in asking an Asian kid to help you with your math, just because they are Asian. But the impact to the victim, and the feelings and motivations of the ‘attacker’ in these two cases, are totally different.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The worst possible interpretation of their stated belief looks like racist nationalism. I am certainly willing to believe that some birthers are actually racist.

            Wonderful. Since you appear to concede that the birther conspiracy theories were motivated in part by racism of exactly the type I suggested, I see nothing left to dispute.

          • bean says:

            Re Japanese internment, Earthly Knight what do you make of this? Was it still all racism, or does that give suspicion which might have started it all?

          • Spookykou says:

            Well, that was never my dispute? The idea that nobody who believed in the birther conspiracy could have been racist is a particularly ridiculous belief, and I don’t think many people hold it? The belief that the birther conspiracy was motivated by the same racial animus as the Nazi party, is rather a different claim, and what I have been disputing.

            But I guess you would rather tilt at windmills.

            Just for fun,

            ‘It’s outrageous that multi-millionaires and billionaires are allowed to play by a different set of rules than hardworking families, especially when it comes to paying their fair share of taxes.’

            Do you think you could find any person in all of america who believes this, and is also racist against Jews and word replaces [millionaires and billionaires] with [Jews]?

            If you think such people exist, at all, then you concede that the Hilary Clinton Campaign was motivated in part by racism of exactly the type you suggested, I also see nothing left to dispute.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bean

            I do not recall saying that racism was the sole cause of the Japanese-American internment. Is the problem here that people don’t understand that one event can have multiple causes?

            @ Spookykou

            The idea that nobody who believed in the birther conspiracy could have been racist is a particularly ridiculous belief,

            You’re backsliding. The claim is that racism, specifically the type of racism which sees non-white immigrants and their descendants as inherently suspicious and foreign, played a crucial role in the spread of the birther conspiracy theories. Are you on board with this or not?

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Bean

            Re Japanese internment, Earthly Knight what do you make of this? Was it still all racism, or does that give suspicion which might have started it all?

            What do you make of this?, a German spy ring of 30+ was discovered, with naturalized citizens who had been naturalized as early as 1920. How many Germans were rounded up and put into camps again?

          • Spookykou says:

            The Detained something like 10,000 Germans I think, but they only interned a small fraction of that.

            EK

            specifically the type of racism which sees non-white immigrants as inherently suspicious and foreign, played a crucial role in the spread of the birther conspiracy theories. Are you on board with this or not?

            Do you think antisemitism plays and has played a crucial role in spreading anti elite and anti wealth ideas. Are you on board with this or not?

            I am on board with your question to exactly the same degree that you are on board with my question.

            Wherever we end up standing, all forms of anti elite anti wealth ideation are as racist as the birther movement.

            Edit for clarity, You seem to be working under the assumption that the vast majory of birthers hold or held deeply racist opinions towards non-white people with foreign sounding names. This is not my model of Birthers, having a few in my family. The impression I got was, they heard a news story about somebody asking for Obama’s birth certificate, and him refusing to show it, they then thought some version of ‘If he was really born in America why wouldn’t he show it?!’ and thus, a birther is born. The only ‘proof’ that you have that the birther movement was racist, is the ideation you want to ascribe to it, I accepted that it was not impossible that some birthers might hold those positions, just like plenty of anti-elite people actually hold antisemitic positions.

          • lhn says:

            It at least looks from what I can see as if most/all German internees were classed as enemy aliens (though citizen family members sometimes voluntarily joined them in the internment camp), where the Japanese internment included some 70,000 American citizens.

          • bean says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I do not recall saying that racism was the sole cause of the Japanese-American internment. Is the problem here that people don’t understand that one event can have multiple causes?

            Be honest. Did you even know about that incident before I brought it up? Yes, this is very relevant, because when I found out about it, it shifted my opinion of how much racism had gone into that decision a lot.

            @baconbacon

            What do you make of this?, a German spy ring of 30+ was discovered, with naturalized citizens who had been naturalized as early as 1920. How many Germans were rounded up and put into camps again?

            My grandfather’s family got kicked out of Texas for being German in 1942, and his father was denied work in the shipyards until he’d gotten an affidavit that he was born in the US (very shortly after the family arrived from Germany). It wasn’t just the Japanese who suffered.
            I do see two big differences. In Niihau, the Japanese involved were, as far as anyone knows, totally uninvolved before the war, and were born over here. Japanese aviator lands on their door, and they immediately switch sides. This is very different from a few self-selected naturalized citizens continuing to hold loyalty to their original country. For that matter, the spy ring was wound up before the US entered the war.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Did you even know about that incident before I brought it up?

            Uh, Sandy mentioned it earlier in the thread. As some of the other commenters have noted, there were a lot of Nazi sympathizers in the country with German heritage, too, but this didn’t lead to any large-scale round-up and internment of German-Americans.

            The Niihau incident also occurred in Hawaii, but only about 2% of the ethnically Japanese population of Hawaii ended up being sent to camps. It was the better-integrated mainland Japanese-Americans who suffered the most, which makes no sense if the internment was substantially a response to this specific incident.

          • bean says:

            Uh, Sandy mentioned it earlier in the thread. As some of the other commenters have noted, there were a lot of Nazi sympathizers in the country, too, but this didn’t lead to any large-scale round-up and internment of German-Americans.

            It did lead to those people being denied positions in vital war industries. As for why they weren’t rounded up, have you stopped to consider the relative strengths of the German and Japanese navies as perceived in 1942?

          • Spookykou says:

            which makes no sense if the internment was substantially a response to this specific incident.

            Being more concerned about possible traitors on the mainland makes some sense to me.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bean

            I don’t think arguing that the Japanese internment was a rational response to the perceived strength of the Japanese navy is going to be a winner for you.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Spookykou

            Do you think antisemitism plays and has played a crucial role in spreading anti elite and anti wealth ideas. Are you on board with this or not?

            I think that there is a rational basis for having “anti-elite and anti-wealth ideas” and that those ideas propagate chiefly on their own merits. Ludicrous conspiracy theories like birtherism and the blood libel have no basis in reason or fact, so we have to look to other possible causes to explain how their spread. In the case of blood libel, this is coherence with the racist stereotype of jews as villainous parasites. In the case of birtherism, it’s coherence with the well-worn racist stereotype that immigrants who are not members of the dominant race– in our case, non-white immigrants to America– can never qualify as real citizens.

          • bean says:

            I don’t think arguing that the Japanese internment was a rational response to the perceived strength of the Japanese navy is going to be a winner for you.

            Why not? There were serious public worries that the Japanese were going to be appearing off of California any day now, and the military wasn’t ready to completely discount the possibility. In hindsight, it’s obviously ludicrous, but that’s why I used the word perceived. And if you’re worried about invasion (never a concern with the Germans, who couldn’t even invade Britain) then rounding up everyone who might suddenly decide to help them when they come ashore isn’t totally irrational.
            (Oh, and just to be clear, sources are Samuel Eliot Morison’s Rising Sun in the Pacific and the Nimitz War Diary.)

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The Battle of Midway, which effectively ended the threat of Japanese naval supremacy in the Pacific, took place while Japanese-Americans were still being moved to the camps. Like I said, the argument that the internment was in any way rational is not a winner.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            In politics, ideas don’t have to have “basis in reason or fact” to spread; they only have to have political usefulness. Isn’t that what the big “fake news” flap of the moment is about?

          • Spookykou says:

            Ludicrous conspiracy

            I think we have pretty wildly different opinions on what counts as a ludicrous conspiracy, also I think you are still conflating birtherism with your worst possible form of birtherism. ‘It is literally impossible for a black man with a foreign name to be American’. I did not hear that, I am not sure where that idea was stated, I am willing to believe that some people who are birthers also believe that, but like I said from the start, unless I am very confused about the birther conspiracy, that was not the main thrust.

            Given that, my explanation

            The impression I got was, they heard a news story about somebody asking for Obama’s birth certificate, and him refusing to show it, they then thought some version of ‘If he was really born in America why wouldn’t he show it?!’ and thus, a birther is born.

            seems considerably more reasonable then everyone being a closet racist nationalist. I then simply pointed out that your ‘evidence’ for your case, could be applied pretty liberally to almost anything, so it in and of itself should not change any minds.

            WWII stuff

            took place while Japanese-Americans were still being moved to the camps.

            This does not seem to prove your point, unless you are calling for a sudden change in policy, after the threat of the Japanese Navy was diminished, which might have been warranted. It does not speak to whatever original plans the US government laid for the internment, before the battle of Midway.

            Edit, Ninja’d by Bean

          • bean says:

            The Battle of Midway, which effectively ended the threat of Japanese naval supremacy in the Pacific, took place while Japanese-Americans were still being moved to the camps. Like I said, the argument that the internment was in any way rational is not a winner.

            This is self-refuting. The decision to intern was made in February, when the Japanese were sweeping all before them. If you don’t understand why it might have taken time to carry out, or why it continued after the threat of invasion ended, then I’d suggest looking up ‘bureaucratic inertia’.
            Edit:
            A bit more digging turns up that the full timeline is more complicated. The authority for internment was issued in February, but the full roundup didn’t happen until May, on the orders of General DeWitt. I will admit that he appears to have been an out-and-out racist, and it is an indictment of Roosevelt that he didn’t step in when DeWitt widened the scope after the threat had passed. I will stand by my statement that the order which gave DeWitt the authority to do what he did (which was issued in February) was at least defensible.

          • baconbacon says:

            And if you’re worried about invasion (never a concern with the Germans, who couldn’t even invade Britain) then rounding up everyone who might suddenly decide to help them when they come ashore isn’t totally irrational.

            What if you are worried about sabotage? Germany using U-boats to pickup and drop off trained operatives seems like as reasonable a threat (at least as reasonable as Japan’s navy conquering California).

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bean

            Racial minorities with an alien culture are put in concentration camps for three years after any glimmer of threat they may have represented is extinguished, and your go-to explanation is bureaucratic inertia? Would you accept this as a plausible account of any other ethnic cleansing in history?

            @ Spookykou

            ‘It is literally impossible for a black man with a foreign name to be American’. I did not hear that, I am not sure where that idea was stated,

            Tell me, do you think most people who repeat the blood libel say or even hold the explicit belief that jews are villainous parasites? The birther theory didn’t need a bunch of cackling Bull-Connor-style racists to spread. It just needed to take root in the minds of people who were a little too eager to believe the president was foreign-born in light of the color of his skin, his exotic surname, and his immigrant ancestry.

          • Spookykou says:

            🙂

            I asked you this exact question a few comments up.

            I honestly believe that almost anyone who would engage in blood libel believes that Jews are villainous parasites.

            This plays into a theme that I have been repeating in a lot of my comments, blood libel is ‘real’ racism, with real racial animus, the birther conspiracy is, racist adjacent at best.

            Do I think the main reason the birther idea spread was secret mild racism, no, I think it was politically useful and blasted all over the media. Do I think some birthers might secretly be mildly racist, sure.

            Does that make Birtherism = Blood libel, in terms of its impact, or how we should judge those involved, no.

          • bean says:

            @baconbacon:

            What if you are worried about sabotage? Germany using U-boats to pickup and drop off trained operatives seems like as reasonable a threat (at least as reasonable as Japan’s navy conquering California).

            More reasonable, given that that actually happened, but rounding up all Germans on the East Coast wouldn’t do anything to help. I already pointed out that Germans were excluded from places where they could commit sabotage, and terrorism wasn’t really a thing back then.

            @Earthly Knight

            Racial minorities with an alien culture are put in concentration camps for three years after any glimmer of threat they may have represented is extinguished, and your go-to explanation is bureaucratic inertia?

            You may have missed my edits, where I addressed some of this. All of the country was covered by the same authority, and it wasn’t targeted only at Japanese. The difference is that DeWitt was much more racist than the generals in charge of the other Defense Commands. For bureaucratic reasons, DeWitt was never replaced with someone who was more reasonable.

            Would you accept this as a plausible account of any other ethnic cleansing in history?

            I think you’re slightly abusing ethnic cleansing here, but yes. I’d absolutely accept this as a plausible explanation for something similar happening elsewhere.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Here, incidentally, you can read about the US infantry regiment from WWII comprised primarily of Japanese-Americans, many of whom volunteered directly from the internment camps. In aggregate, the regiment was awarded 9,500 purple hearts, and 21 medals of honor.

          • bean says:

            Here, incidentally, you can read about the US infantry regiment from WWII comprised primarily of Japanese-Americans, many of whom volunteered directly from the internment camps. In aggregate, the regiment was awarded 9,500 purple hearts, and 21 medals of honor.

            Of course I knew about the 442nd (if you haven’t noticed, I’m a fairly serious WWII geek), and I’m certainly not making the claim that there was any substantial disloyalty among the interned. That doesn’t mean there weren’t reasons besides racism that some of the decisions were made.

          • bean says:

            I’ve looked into this more, and I may have been unfair to Gen. DeWitt. I found the Army’s official history of US continental defense during the war. According to them (and I’ll admit that the whole thing was probably considered embarrassing by 1962, when it was published), the major push came from the citizens of the states in question, not the military. DeWitt’s orders were executing what had been agreed on in February, not the rogue actions I’d read them as. Chapter 4 is also interesting for a view of the apparent threat to the coast.

        • Aapje says:

          @Earthly Knight

          Trump claimed that Curiel wasn’t adjudicating the case impartially, and inferred that this must be because the judge had Mexican heritage and was therefore automatically biased against him.

          Is it racist to claim that other people are (subconsciously) racist?

          This is something that the social justice people do quite a lot to white people too. Are those insinuations equally racist to what Trump said?

          • Matt M says:

            As I’ve said elsewhere in the thread, Trump only said that Curiel would be unable to judge him fairly after MONTHS of the media insisting that Trump cannot possibly win over hispanic voters because of his racist anti-hispanic comments.

            So CNN saying “Hispanics will judge Trump not on the merits of his policies but on his anti-hispanic comments” is a-ok, but Trump saying “this particular hispanic will judge me not on the merits of my case but on my anti-hispanic comments” is unconscionable racism.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            “The Hispanic Vote” includes a lot of dumb hispanics, Curiel, no matter how much AA he got, is presumably at the very least a pretty smart guy.

          • Randy M says:

            What does smart have to do with it? A smart judge could more easily justify or obscure his bias.

          • Matt M says:

            So CNN is less racist than Trump because they implied a lot of hispanics are dumb and he didn’t?

            More specifically, they are saying that it’s DUMB of hispanics to judge Trump solely on his anti-hispanic comments, and presumably DON’T want them to do that?

            Really?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            More specifically, they are saying that it’s DUMB of hispanics to judge Trump solely on his anti-hispanic comments, and presumably DON’T want them to do that?

            Really?

            I mean, it’s implicit in what they said, no? Except for the part that they don’t want them to do that, you made that one up.

            So CNN is less racist than Trump because they implied a lot of hispanics are dumb and he didn’t?

            To be fair, the implication that there’s a lot of dumb hispanics is not the same as the implication that there’s a disproportionate amount of dumb hispanics. There’s a lot of dumb people, and there’s a lot of hispanics, there’s nothing racist about that.

            Trump is implying, on the other hand, that this other guy’s ethnic loyalty will supersede his objective judgement. Now, I don’t think that’s super racist or anything, but it’s probably more racist than the CNN thing.

          • keranih says:

            A wise Latina judge, on the other hand, that one you’d never catch making an error in judgement.

            I don’t see how it is possible to claim that “black people are not given a fair trial if only white people are on the jury” and then say that it is racist to charge that a Hispanic judge might have the (presumed) biases of many other Hispanics.

            Again, these claims of racism on the part of Trump are not supportable given the preferences and prior claims of the people making those claims.

            He was a crap candidate and I have no hope of him being an excellent president. People who object to him on those grounds have my full support.

            People who go on and on about Trump’s “white nationalist racism” make me happier and happier I voted for him.

            I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I don’t see how it is possible to claim that “black people are not given a fair trial if only white people are on the jury” and then say that it is racist to charge that a Hispanic judge might have the (presumed) biases of many other Hispanics.

            Have you ever heard someone claim that a black person can never be given a fair trial if the judge is white? I haven’t. And yes, it is indeed racist to claim that a hispanic judge’s presumed racial loyalties will prevent him from properly carrying out his professional duties. Compare: “How can a woman judge be trusted to be fair to the husband in divorce proceedings?”

            People who go on and on about Trump’s “white nationalist racism” make me happier and happier I voted for him.

            You’re “happier and happier” that you voted for a sexual predator?

          • keranih says:

            Have you ever heard someone claim that a black person can never be given a fair trial if the judge is white? I haven’t.

            Honey, under what rock have you been???

            And *of course* I’ve heard people say – for decades that women can’t get a fair shake in sexual assault trials going before a male judge, and that of course a female judge is going to be more sympathetic to the wife.

            I agree that we should agree that equality before the law is the best and highest virtue, but the whole concept of affirmative action in government positions is to get “people who look like the community” in positions of power, as opposed to “the white folks” running everything (unfairly).

            And now it gets flipped around so that “white folks” are starting to suspect that a black or Hispanic judge is going to be biased against them, and you blame the white folks for that notion? Really?

            happier and happier that you voted for a sexual predator

            Happier and happier that, given the two options, I declined to believe the hogswallow being piped in by the Democrats and their pet MSM about how awesome their candidate was, and how lousy the other guy was.

            The anti-Trump arguments are emotionally-based and factually groundless. There is no telling what else was being misrepresented by the people making those arguments, and I am better off listening to the people on the other side of the power incline.

            This doesn’t change the fact that I still wish it was Rubio or Walker. Or Webb.

            But I wasn’t given that choice.

          • Aapje says:

            @EK

            Have you ever heard someone claim that a black person can never be given a fair trial if the judge is white?

            A very common explanation by left-wing people about why there are so many black people in prison is that they are policed harder, sentenced harder, etc. Their solution to this is to demand more ‘diversity’ aka more black cops/judges. Their proposed solution only makes sense if they believe that white people are biased against black people in a way that black people themselves are not.

            Now, I don’t really mind you calling Trump a racist for this IF you also are willing to use the same slur for out the other tribe when they do the same thing.

            I hate, hate, hate, hate hypocrisy much more than sloppy accusations.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            And *of course* I’ve heard people say – for decades that women can’t get a fair shake in sexual assault trials going before a male judge,

            That wasn’t the question. I asked: Have you ever heard someone claim that a black person can never be given a fair trial if the judge is white? If the answer is yes, I would like to see evidence to that effect. If the answer is no, you’ll have to concede that Trump’s racist attack on Curiel was different from the sort of criticism leftists typically make about racial bias in the justice system.

            The anti-Trump arguments are emotionally-based and factually groundless.

            >”factually groundless”
            >Voted for birther

            Question: you voted for a known sexual predator, so should we assume that you’re pro-rape, or do you just not care about the welfare of sexual assault victims?

          • keranih says:

            you voted for a sexual predator, so should we assume that you’re pro-rape, or do you just not care about the welfare of sexual assault victims?

            …yeap. You just said that.

            Bugger off, mate. And be glad I’m still smarting from the last banning, or else I’d go into more detail about your blindness, projection, bad faith, unsupported arguments, and in general sore-loser-tude.

            Again, you wanna talk about how Trump is so totally not a great choice to run this country, I’m right there with you. You want to limit the discussion to how -ist Trump is, and so how -ist I must be for preferring him to the train wreck of yet another Clinton administration…

            …you go right ahead.

            You won’t convince *me* that Trump’s a better option than *anyone* else out there, but no telling what the lurkers will conclude.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You want to limit the discussion to how -ist Trump is, and so how -ist I must be for preferring him to the train wreck of yet another Clinton administration…

            Yeah, I can see how the horror of having to suffer through another eight years of peace and prosperity like we had under Bill could definitely justify voting for a sexual predator.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’m not sure Bill Clinton being a sexual predator was actually the reason for the peace and prosperity, but it’s an interesting idea.

          • Spookykou says:

            God bless FamousChineseAuthorMovingPictures you nearly had me out of my seat.

          • Moon says:

            “The train wreck of a Clinton administration” is a real thing in many Right of Center people’s minds. Look at Breitbart or Fox News or listen to Right Wing radio. A ton of people really believe all those falsehoods and conspiracy theories. And that’s why they voted for Trump.

          • Moon says:

            “you voted for a known sexual predator, so should we assume that you’re pro-rape, or do you just not care about the welfare of sexual assault victims?”

            Listen to Fox or Right Wing radio or read Breitbart and you will know why. According to a lot of Right Wing “news sources”, Trump was innocent of everything he was accused of, while HRC was guilty of everything any conspiracy theory creator accused her of, like killing almost 100 people who got in her way, being a sexual predator, treason by means of emails etc. etc.

            People really believed this bs. That’s why they voted Trump. We have a huuuuuge propaganda problem in the U.S. No conspiracy theory was ever too ridiculous for Right Wing media to push, or for their consumers to believe.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ suntzuanime
            I’m not sure Bill Clinton being a sexual predator was actually the reason for the peace and prosperity, but it’s an interesting idea.

            I thought that at the time — that Bill was exercising his testosterone in the right kind of place, rather than in politics. Make love not war.

            Mild evidence: the only military action of his era was Kosovo — after the Impeachment.

            ObPedantry: Bill was not a ‘predator’; she snapped her thong at him, pursued him for quite a while afterwards. Not, I hope, that you meant Bill was the ‘predator’, but I’m clarifying for the sake of the children under 40.

          • Is it racist to selectively claim that other people are (subconsciously) racist?

          • stevenj says:

            “the only military action of his [Bill Clinton’s] era was Kosovo — after the Impeachment”

            Not true.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations#1990.E2.80.931999

            Some of the major military operations initiated by Bill Clinton:
            Bosnia 1993-1995: Operations Deny Flight (no-fly zone) and Deliberate Force (Large-scale air strikes against Serbian targets).
            Haiti 1994-1995: Operation Uphold Democracy (invasion to overthrow the government and restore the previous administration).
            Iraq 1992-2003: Various airstrikes
            Kosovo 1999

          • Matt M says:

            Also I’m not sure we can just brush off Kosovo as no big deal. While it was small in scale relative to many other operations, it was also completely and entirely unnecessary, resulted in a whole lot of death and destruction in that particular region, and widely speculated to have been undertaken for the specific purposes of distracting the public from Clinton’s political troubles…

          • While it was small in scale relative to many other operations, it was also completely and entirely unnecessary, resulted in a whole lot of death and destruction in that particular region, and widely speculated to have been undertaken for the specific purposes of distracting the public from Clinton’s political troubles.

            I strongly disagree with almost all of that, particularly as to Bill Clinton’s role, but I really don’t want to go back and re-litigate the Yugoslav break-up right now.

            I will say that the ultimate outcome, with Kosovo as an independent republic, strikes me as ludicrous, as if the Balkans needed yet another small land-locked country.

          • “And yes, it is indeed racist to claim that a hispanic judge’s presumed racial loyalties will prevent him from properly carrying out his professional duties.”

            Suppose he makes the corresponding claim about other judges, that their decisions are biased by their racial, gender, ethnic, political, … loyalties.

            You might say he is prejudiced against judges. You might, more plausibly, say that he is prejudiced against humans, think them less honest and rational than they should be.

            But I don’t see why you would say he was a racist, unless the race you were referring to was the human race.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m not sure we can just brush off Kosovo as no big deal…

            …not to mention the mess of international law we made. Item 1 of Russia’s justification of operations in Ukraine follow from Kosovo.

          • Aapje says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            Is it racist to selectively claim that other people are (subconsciously) racist?

            Imagine that he also believes that white judges are racist in favor of white people.

            Now imagine an alternative reality where the judge is white.

            The logical conclusion is that he would either expect to benefit from racism or that racism would not play a role (if the students are also white). In the first case, it would harm him to point out the racism. In the second case, it would be a nonsensical to link the lawsuit to racism.

            I would argue that it is not racist to point out racism that harms you personally, but not racism that doesn’t. It is merely rationally selfish.

      • nyccine says:

        I keep hearing that Hillary made up the birther thing back when she was running against Obama. Is that wrong?

        Technically, yes. It was his literary agent.

        But yes, the Clinton campaign most definitely made an issue of the possibility. Hillary personally? Arguably not. But gbdub is just flat-out wrong when he claims there was no direct connection to the Hillary campaign in 2008.

        • Matt M says:

          The sheer timing of it points a huge arrow of obvious suspicion directly to the Clinton campaign in the sense that it started being raised as a potential issue well before Obama had the nomination completely wrapped up.

          • Well... says:

            OK. But that’s a side issue anyway–it ought to give the people crying racist some pause, but it doesn’t refute them. The real issue is whether birtherism is a racist argument in itself, and I just don’t see how it is. If Bernie Sanders had won the primary and then there was a lot of focus on how his father was born in Poland and maybe some obscurity over where Bernie was born, you’d have Trump voters asking to see his papers too.

            It’s one of those “Lots of douchebags wear trucker hats; you’re wearing a trucker hat; you must be a douchebag” type things.

          • Iain says:

            The entire point of the people “crying racist” about birtherism is that no white politician has ever been subjected to this kind of sustained attack. It’s not just that people wanted to “see his papers”. It’s that after the short form birth certificate was released, people rejected it, called it a conspiracy, and demanded the long form birth certificate – and then when that was released, Trump still kept pushing it, literally for years.

            The closest thing to a counter-example was Trump’s attack on Cruz – and, as I think I mentioned somewhere else, that was a short-lived attack based on a procedural question about the definition of “natural-born”.

          • Well... says:

            I rescind the portion of my argument where I say Trump became a birther opportunistically for this election. The rest of my argument (about birtherism not being intrinsically racist) stands.

            I am most surprised, though, to see that Trump took a stand on ANYTHING (except NAFTA & general grumbling about “deals”) before 2015, particularly a stand shared by anyone on the Right.

          • Iain says:

            So you’d probably be surprised to know that he took out a full-page ad in 1989 to argue for the death penalty in the case of the Central Park Five, a group of five black or Hispanic teenagers who confessed under duress to a brutal gang rape and were later exonerated by DNA evidence?

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Iain

            The entire point of the people “crying racist” about birtherism is that no white politician has ever been subjected to this kind of sustained attack.

            I ask the same question that Earthly Knight seems to have ignored above: I’m curious what you think about America’s first Canadian President, Chester A. Arthur.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            There was some legitimate question whether Chester A. Arthur was actually born in the country, wasn’t there? If you’re aiming to produce evidence that the birther conspiracy theory is not racially motivated, you will need to locate an example of a white politician who has faced sustained accusations of being foreign-born where the accusations are totally scurrilous.

          • Iain says:

            @Well….

            To reply to your broader point: You are right that asking for somebody’s birth certificate is not inherently racist. That isn’t the argument, though. The argument is about what happened after Obama released it. For any white politician, releasing a birth certificate would have been the end of the issue. Obama released two birth certificates, and the story still had legs, because it fit into racist narratives about non-white people not being “real” Americans. Donald Trump chose to stoke those narratives with bald-faced lies. (“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” – Aug 2012) Maybe he did it because he is racist; maybe he is not racist himself, but deliberately pandered to racists; maybe he somehow accidentally stumbled onto One Weird Trick Minorities Hate. I don’t really care. Whatever his motivation, Donald Trump spent years trying to undermine the legitimacy of the first black president by pandering to racists.

            @Controls Freak: As a Canadian, I am in strong support!

            More seriously: I know very little about Arthur. Based solely off the Wikipedia article:
            a) Racist or not, spreading rumours about Arthur clearly didn’t cover Hinman in glory.
            b) It does not appear that Hinman was actually successful in spreading rumours about Arthur.
            c) It seems that Hinman first tried rumours about Arthur being Irish, and only fell back on Canada when that failed. This was the 1880s, and Irish people weren’t completely white yet; “Irish need not apply” signs were still a thing at the time. Arthur’s father was born in Ireland. To that extent, it seems at least plausible to me that part of the appeal of Arthur-birtherism was anti-Irish sentiment (although I freely admit that I am extrapolating a lot here and am welcome to being proven wrong.)
            If that doesn’t satisfy you, then feel free to mentally amend “no white politician” in my previous post to “no white politician in the last 130 years “. I’m not convinced that events from 136 years ago are particularly relevant to the current context.

          • Jiro says:

            So you’d probably be surprised to know that he took out a full-page ad in 1989 to argue for the death penalty in the case of the Central Park Five, a group of five black or Hispanic teenagers who confessed under duress to a brutal gang rape and were later exonerated by DNA evidence?

            They didn’t confess to committing the rape themselves, they confessed to being accomplices while someone else raped her. It’s hard for DNA evidence to exonerate them from that. Furthermore, Trump had no way of knowing even that much in 1989, short of never arguing for serious punishment for black criminals just in case one of them might be found innocent years later and lead to an accusation of racism.

          • Iain says:

            They didn’t confess to committing the rape themselves, they confessed to being accomplices while someone else raped her. It’s hard for DNA evidence to exonerate them from that.

            No, but the guy who actually committed the rape confessed in 2002, had his involvement confirmed by DNA, and said he committed the rape alone. Moreover, the confessions that they did give were mutually inconsistent and didn’t fit with various bits of independent evidence – and that part, at least, was knowable in 1989.

            Arguing for serious punishment in the abstract is one thing. Taking out a full page advertisement in a newspaper arguing for the death penalty for teenagers in a specific case is another.

            Put another way: if George Soros had taken out a full-page ad about the Duke lacrosse case, and refused to recant when it fell apart, would you count this as evidence that he was an “SJW”?

          • DrBeat says:

            There was some legitimate question whether Chester A. Arthur was actually born in the country, wasn’t there? If you’re aiming to produce evidence that the birther conspiracy theory is not racially motivated, you will need to locate an example of a white politician who has faced sustained accusations of being foreign-born where the accusations are totally scurrilous.

            The only difference between there being “legitimate question” about something and the accusation being “totally scurrilous” — the only reason there has ever been and the only reason there will ever be, ever, ever ever ever ever ever until the Sun is cold and dead — is whether the accusation is emotionally satisfying to the speaker to repeat.

          • Matt M says:

            “No, but the guy who actually committed the rape confessed in 2002, had his involvement confirmed by DNA, and said he committed the rape alone. Moreover, the confessions that they did give were mutually inconsistent and didn’t fit with various bits of independent evidence – and that part, at least, was knowable in 1989.”

            Not sure this is easily analogized to Duke Lacrosse in which everybody, from day one, categorically denied any and all wrongdoing with 100% consistency and an almost complete and total lack of any evidence that would indicate their guilt.

          • Iain says:

            Sure, and Soros didn’t actually take out an ad. It’s a hypothetical question. If you need to pretend that the Duke case lasted longer before falling apart, you have my permission.

          • “no white politician has ever been subjected to this kind of sustained attack”

            Have there been white presidential candidates who were born to a citizen mother and a non-citizen father very shortly after the mother arrived back in the U.S.? That seems to me to be the situation that made the story believable enough to be pushed.

            Obviously his mother didn’t know he would be running for president. But, if I correctly understand the relevant law (from a very quick web search), if he was born outside the U.S. to a citizen mother and non-citizen father he would not be a citizen, if born inside he would. So if he had been born just before she returned to the U.S. there would have been an incentive for her to claim he was born just after. And since he wasn’t a presidential candidate at the time, there is no reason why anybody would have been paying close attention.

            That was enough to make it an initially believable story and the combination of it’s being a good story and his running for president was enough to keep it going even with evidence against.

            Do you know how hard it would have been at the time to get a bogus birth certificate, perhaps by bribing a clerk? I don’t and, more importantly, the average American doesn’t. So even with the evidence of the birth certificates, it isn’t astonishing that some people continued to believe the story.

            At only a slight tangent, do you remember the FLDS mess in Texas some years back? The Texas child protection authorities were making public statements about how many of the fundamentalist Mormon women whose children they had seized were minors. They were basing those statements on ignoring documentary evidence of age in the belief that it was fraudulent, and simply treating their guesses at women’s ages as facts. It was obviously their view that birth certificates were not proof of when someone was born.

            An old post of mine with links to more relevant stuff.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Dr Beat

            The only difference between there being “legitimate question” about something and the accusation being “totally scurrilous” — the only reason there has ever been and the only reason there will ever be, ever, ever ever ever ever ever until the Sun is cold and dead — is whether the accusation is emotionally satisfying to the speaker to repeat.

            By “legitimate question” I mean that the accusation has some non-trivial amount of evidence in its favor, by “totally scurrilous” I mean that the evidence is trivial or non-existent. This seems pretty straightforward. Or do you think there’s no such thing as evidence?

            @ David Friedman

            Well before Trump entered the fray, journalists had located notices of Obama’s birth in two separate Hawaiian newspapers. It’s not just a question of forging a birth certificate, birthers had to believe that a large group of actors were actively conspiring to conceal the circumstances of the president’s birth. Hence, “conspiracy theory.”

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            I supported raising a stink because I wanted to know just how often did he claim one background when it benefits and another when it ceases to benefit. Whether he had a birth certificate or didn’t makes little difference to the issues where I wanted to see further answers.

          • DrBeat says:

            The assessment of whether something has a non-trivial amount of evidence in its favor is identical in every possible respect to the assessment of whether something is emotionally satisfying to repeat.

            There is such a thing as evidence; nobody involved interacts with it at any stage beyond claiming it justifies them saying the things they already wanted to say and already committed to say regardless of evidence. The pieces of evidence pointing to Chester A. Arthur not being in the US could be just as legitimate or illegitimate as the evidence pointing to Obama not being born in the US, but none of the people involved in making that distinction will ever be capable of making that assessment based on anything other than what they find emotionally satisfying to say.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Iain, Earthly Knight

            I’m going to make a broad point by way of two examples.

            1. I am active in the academic literature on dynamics/control theory, robotics, autonomy, etc. I often make fun of a phenomenon where a paper will state, “Group X did sensor fusion with lidar and vision; Group Y did sensor fusion with vision and ultrasonic; Group Z did sensor fusion with lidar and ultrasonic.” Then, they will proudly proclaim, “We are The First to do sensor fusion with all three!” Of course, there’s literally nothing different about the methods they’re using, but by golly, they’ve found a case that no one has quite bothered to publish yet. It’s even better if they include, “The first aerial platform to…” or, “The first rotorcraft platform to…” or the like. Somehow, these papers get published, but everyone knows that they’re not actually doing anything new here.

            2. In the original PPACA case (NFIB), the government made an argument that the health care market was unique. They identified six features that distinguished it (broadly construed) from other markets. Ignoring the fact that I can construe examples broadly enough to make it non-unique, one justice cut straight to the problem during oral arguments. It’s all well and good to come up with a list of properties which distinguish Item X. You can do this for any X, because, uh, nonidentical things are distinguishable. However, you need an argument for why those properties distinguish Item X for the purposes of the Constitution.

            So, I’m sure that given enough time, you can find some list of properties which distinguish the instant case from prior cases (though, you guys should probably get together and agree on what those properties are going to be ahead of time). However, (especially in the case when other combinations of said properties have existed in the past) you need to show (from first principles) why that particular set of properties implies that something is racist. So far, you seem to have:

            A. “People questioned a candidate’s Constitutional eligibility to run for President. The candidate in question is black, so it’s racist.” Uh. We have examples of this happening before. Hmm.

            B. “People questioned a candidate’s Constitutional eligibility to run for President in a sustained fashion. The candidate in question is black, so it’s racist.” Uh, we also have an example of this happening before. Hmm.

            C(i). “People questioned a candidate’s Constitutional eligibility to run for President in a sustained fashion under circumstances which I subjectively find to be unreasonable,” or

            C(ii). “People questioned a candidate’s Constitutional eligibility to run for President in a sustained fashion within a completely arbitrary timeline.”

            Ok. Given enough time, we can probably drill it down to a unique case. There’s only been 44 presidents, so maybe on the order of 100-200 candidates. That doesn’t require a very high VC dimension. Your challenge is to (come to an agreement with your side about which properties you’re going to roll with, then) show that these properties aren’t totally ad hoc. Show us why they’re relevant for purposes of showing racism. Given that all of the components have been plentiful in the course of politics as usual, why is this particular combination new and special? From first principles, why does going from B to (your future choice of) C take us from “not racist” to “totally racist”? This is especially challenging when multiple other individuals have given non-racist reasons for making such a jump (e.g., ‘When politicians seem like they’re hiding something, I assume they’re hiding something important,’ (said every person who mentioned Trump’s tax returns)).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Iain,

            Arguing for serious punishment in the abstract is one thing. Taking out a full page advertisement in a newspaper arguing for the death penalty for teenagers in a specific case is another.

            Have you read the ad?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Dr Beat

            The pieces of evidence pointing to Chester A. Arthur not being in the US could be just as legitimate or illegitimate as the evidence pointing to Obama not being born in the US, but none of the people involved in making that distinction will ever be capable of making that assessment based on anything other than what they find emotionally satisfying to say.

            I am still not sure where this is coming from, unless it’s some kind of general skepticism about evidence. If you prefer, we can restate the claim in terms of probabilities, as follows:

            P(S was not born in the United States|all we know about the circumstances of his birth is that he was born to a family who frequently traveled across the border between Vermont and Canada) > P(S was not born in the United States|we have a copy of S’s Hawaiian birth certificate & two notices of his birth in Hawaiian newspapers).

            This strikes me as about as straightforward as saying the probability that the sun will rise tomorrow is greater than the probability that it will rain in New York two weeks hence. Or do you think this claim also boils down to emotional satisfaction?

            @ Controls Freak

            I agree that there must be a principled basis for dismissing Chester A. Arthur as a counter-example to the hypothesis that the spread of the birther conspiracy theories was animated by racism. Fortunately, there is. We advance racism as an explanation for the birther movement only because (a) there is a phenomenon here in need of explanation, remarkable in terms of its longevity, virulence, and intractability in the face of contrary evidence, and (b) it cannot be explained in the standard way, that is, in terms of its proponents rationally responding to the evidence available to them. If you find birther attacks on a white presidential candidate, but they were either not sustained or not widespread, that will fail condition (a), because occasional, fleeting smears are a routine feature of politics. If you find birther attacks on a white presidential candidate, but there was some legitimate question about his eligibility, that will fail condition (b), because there would then be some rational basis for the attacks and they would require no special explanation. It appears that the birther attacks on Arthur fail on both counts, hence, they are no real evidence against the proposed connection between racism and the birther conspiracy theories targeting President Obama.

          • Matt M says:

            “(b) it cannot be explained in the standard way, that is, in terms of its proponents rationally responding to the evidence available to them.”

            What about conspiracy theories regarding 9/11 or the JFK assassination or the fake moon landing?

            There are thousands of conspiracy theories that have not immediately gone away because people presented some evidence that pretty clearly disproves them. Are they all racist too?

          • Controls Freak says:

            there is a phenomenon here in need of explanation, remarkable in terms of its longevity, virulence, and intractability in the face of contrary evidence

            Sounds like bog standard politics + conspiracy theory.

            it cannot be explained in the standard way, that is, in terms of its proponents rationally responding to the evidence available to them

            Sounds like bog standard politics + conspiracy theory.

            I mean… I really hope you can come up with examples all on your own this time.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Part of what needs explanation is why there were no other birther conspiracy theories (meeting conditions (a) and (b)) targeting white presidents, why the birthers waited for a black guy with an exotic-sounding surname to show up before it became imperative that the president prove he was born here beyond the slightest doubt. As far as I can tell, no plausible explanation of this other than racism has ever been proposed.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Other than the several plausible explanations that have just been proposed right here in this comments section, you mean?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Namely…?

          • Sandy says:

            Without condoning birtherism, I don’t think it would have come with just any black guy who became President — I don’t think it would have come up if Cory Booker had become President, for example. I think it was easier to smear Obama like that because of his international background – son of a Kenyan national, born in Hawaii, raised in Indonesia, only really started living on the mainland when he started attending college in LA.

          • “Namely…?”

            I’m not sure if it was in this thread, but the explanation I proposed was that Obama was born just after his mother returned to the U.S. If he had been born slightly earlier, or she returned slightly later, he would not have been a citizen (as I understand the relevant law) and not have been qualified to run for president.

            So it made a good story to claim that the timing was just a little off, that his mother came back with a newborn and pretended he had been born in the U.S.

            At the same time, it fit with other strange things–a foreign name, a foreign father. The package was a dramatic story. In addition, of course, it was a story that some people wanted to believe, since if it was true (and demonstrable) it meant he couldn’t be president and, like most candidates, he was someone many people didn’t want to be president.

            Are there any other presidential candidates for whom a similar story works? In the other recent cases I know of, the issue was not what had happened but the detailed interpretation of the law, which is less interesting.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Earthly Knight

            You’re still running into the lidar+vision+ultrasonic problem. There are plenty of examples of other political attacks/conspiracy theories meeting (a) and (b). There are plenty of other birther conspiracy theories. Why is this particular combination super duper unique and fundamentally different… rather than just being another combination of the same three elements that have been around forever… but which just happens to not have happened simultaneously before (because of the aforementioned small VC dimension required).

            If we call the Constitutional eligibility challenge item (c), it seems like you’re claiming, “I totally understand how people could have non-racist reasons for every other combination of (a),(b),(c)… but if we put them all together, I have no explanation for it. Therefore, in the absence of an alternative explanation (perhaps ignoring the various alternative explanations given), I revert to the null hypothesis of racism.”

            I don’t buy it. At all. All of the reasons for people adopting all of those other combinations of (a),(b),(c) almost certainly directly apply for adopting the union of them. You’ve still said nothing to show that this combination is fundamentally different from other combinations.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            Part of what needs explanation is why there were no other birther conspiracy theories […] targeting white presidents [….]

            I presume that most US politicians had more (if needed) than a piece of paper to back up their claim of birth in the US. Such as would result from having stable parents in a stable marriage with some position in a community, continuity of friends of the family who would remember the baby shower, the baptism in a local church, the child in kindergarten, etc.

            Lack of backup for the BC of course does not make the BC worthless. The question I’m addressing was, why such suspicion of Obama’s BC when no one questioned other politicians’ BCs.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ David Friedman

            I’m not sure if it was in this thread, but the explanation I proposed was that Obama was born just after his mother returned to the U.S.

            I can’t find evidence anywhere that this is true. The biographies all say that she met Obama’s father while they were students at the University of Hawaii and shortly thereafter became pregnant. They don’t say anything about a trip to Kenya. Do you have a citation?

            @ houseboatonstyxb

            I presume that most US politicians had more (if needed) than a piece of paper to back up their claim of birth in the US.

            You mean like notices of their birth appearing in local newspapers?

          • Iain says:

            Furthermore: yes, this is a standard conspiracy theory. That is obviously not incompatible with it being racist. There are extremely unsurprising studies that find correlation between racial prejudice and perception of how “American” Obama is. (This particular study used Biden as a baseline, so it is not simply a reflection of opposition to Democratic politicians.)

            Random nutcases support conspiracy theories all the time. Sometimes those conspiracy theories are racist. The reason we’re talking about birtherism instead of the moon landing hoax is that nobody ever got elected president by spewing lies about Neil Armstrong.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            And conspiracy theories tend to be concretely connected to some kind of bigotry, although not always racism. Jews, Catholics, and Muslims are popular targets. Even the truther conspiracy theories have pretty strong anti-semitic overtones.

          • John Schilling says:

            I presume that most US politicians had more (if needed) than a piece of paper to back up their claim of birth in the US.

            As did Barack Obama, most notably in the form of local newspaper announcements of his birth, made at the time of his birth and subsequently archived in digital and hardcopy form. That’s the first thing I looked for when the issue came up, and that’s what convinced me very quickly that the claims were pure hokum.

            But the Obama administration itself didn’t emphasize those, if it mentioned them at all. Neither did most of his supporters and apologists. Some of the more rigorous journalists and fact-checkers did, but mostly it was “short-form birth certificate so shut up or you’re an Evil Racist!”

            I have long suspected that this was deliberate, at least on the part of the Obama campaign and later administration. They let the GOP have enough rope to hang themselves, confident that the GOP would be dumb enough to do just that.

          • @Earthly Knight:

            “I can’t find evidence anywhere that this is true. ”

            Apparently it isn’t. Somehow I had gotten that impression.

            My error.

          • Moon says:

            Whether it is racism or not about the birther issue, it just fits the overall pattern of GOP propaganda. It is goal oriented. The GOP propagandists don’t have beliefs, except a belief in collecting donations from the .01% and from crony capitalist mega-corporations, and in serving them in return.

            So if racism is a belief, then they’re not racist. They’re like Trump. They just use anything they can to get votes for their party– lies, racist statements, whatever. They don’t care, as long as the goal looks like it will be attained.

            They often start with something that has a tiny grain of reality or truth though. If the president as a child spent time outside the U.S. in a culture that rural white people would find strange, that’s a starting point for coming up with stories about how the president is illegitimate. So is the situation of his father coming from a Muslim country.

            GOP propagandists will take any shred of anything, to paint the U.S. presidential candidate of the other party as The Scary and Illegitimate Other. And once he’s president, they’ll double down harder.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ John Schilling
            I have long suspected that this was deliberate, at least on the part of the Obama campaign and later administration. They let the GOP have enough rope to hang themselves, confident that the GOP would be dumb enough to do just that.

            I’ve thought that too,* for years: Obama was trolling. When his lawyer did ask for the LFBC, it arrived promptly — just in time to humiliate Trump at the Washington Press Correspondents’ Dinner. So Trump’s pressure was effective, though partly in a backhanded way.

            * Well, not the whole GOP.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – “I have long suspected that this was deliberate, at least on the part of the Obama campaign and later administration. They let the GOP have enough rope to hang themselves, confident that the GOP would be dumb enough to do just that.”

            As a pro-Obama partisan at the time, this was my conclusion as well.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ John Schilling
            >> I presume that most US politicians had more (if needed) than a piece of paper to back up their claim of birth in the US.

            > You mean like notices of their birth appearing in local newspapers?

            You and I accept those notices as conclusive (the birthers found them dodgy). But the question is why no one has made such charges against other recent politicians … who may be presumed to have the massive backup that Obama’s birth claims lack.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            You and I accept those notices as conclusive (the birthers found them dodgy). But the question is why no one has made such charges against other recent politicians … who may be presumed to have the massive backup that Obama’s birth claims lack.

            Didn’t you just answer your own question? There isn’t even a plausible avenue to assert that, say, George W. Bush wasn’t born in the United States. The very idea is ridiculous, because he has just that massive backup (father was President, family has been in the public eye in the United States for generations, et cetera.) So instead, the conspiracy theories used against him were things like the Texas ANG memos, which — while just as false as Birtherism — have the microscopic scintilla of plausibility that “George W. Bush wasn’t born in the United States” lacks.

            Like I said, partisans love the idea that there’s some magic document out there that will instantly disqualify the guy they hate. For Obama, it was the long-form birth certificate. For Bush, the ANG memos. Romney, his tax returns. They may seem popular in polls sometimes, but that’s because agreeing with the conspiracy theory is a great way of booing the guy you hate. You would have hated him anyway, absent the conspiracy theory, just for some other reason.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ThirteenthLetter:

            It’s a conspiracy theory, and it took hold for all the normal reasons conspiracy theories take hold.

            But, when a kid calls you a “fag”, it doesn’t mean he actually thinks you are gay, but it still shows animus towards homosexuals. A conspiracy theory about Ted Cruz or John McCain’s birth was never going to take hold on the left, , because the left is far less prone to xenophobia.

            And I really, really doubt the conspiracy theory would have had the kind of legs it did if he had been “John Fitzgerald” and his dad was Irish.

          • Moon says:

            I do think conspiracy theories about Hillary had a huuuge effect on this election. Without them being circulated to naive people, I think she’d have won the electoral college, as well as the popular vote.

            This is how Facebook’s fake-news writers make money
            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/11/18/this-is-how-the-internets-fake-news-writers-make-money/

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Moon, please stop smugly spamming this comments section with endless politicized links. You’re annoying people, not convincing them.

          • Moon says:

            13th Letter, please ignore my comments. I am not writing them for you.

            I am very aware that I am annoying to Right Wingers who can’t handle anything outside of their bubble, and that such folks feel entitled to have all comments here reinforce their bubble. So stay in your safe space, away from my comments. Feel free.

    • Jiro says:

      Scott delayed that post because he didn’t want to accidentally convince people to support Trump. Which I find bizarre. It shows a certain ruthlessness on Scott’s part to want to take Trump down even if it involves knowingly not correcting people who will vote against him based on falsehoods, but as part of the search for truth it pretty much sucks.

      It’s like being a Republican in 2008, knowing that Obama was not born in Kenya, and refusing to say so until after the election because you might accidentally convince someone to vote for Obama.

      • StellaAthena says:

        Do you think it was the wrong choice? I would have done the same

        • Jiro says:

          Would you be in favor of a Republican refusing to correct Birthers until after Obama’s election, on similar grounds?

          Edit: Also, people here tend not to distinguish action and inaction. So if it’s okay to deliberately refuse to correct falsehoods to keep people from voting for Trump, would it also be okay to deliberately spread falsehoods to keep people from voting for Trump?

          • StellaAthena says:

            I would actually have no objection to that as well. I think that there’s a big asymmetry between telling falsehoods and not correcting them though.

          • Spookykou says:

            I also think there is a difference between action and inaction. I have a moral duty not to harm other people through my actions, I do not believe I have a moral duty to take action to prevent all harm to all other people.

          • StellaAthena says:

            I think that inaction is a kind of action a la arguments of Elizabeth Anscombe, i.e. saying “I can’t be blameworthy for not pulling the lever because I didn’t do anything” is bullshit. However, this doesn’t seem to be what you’re saying and I’m pretty sure I disagree with what you’re saying.

          • Jiro says:

            I was alluding to the kind of utilitarianism we commonly see here which fails to distinguish between action and inaction, and even pooh-poohs the idea that people who are involved have more responsibility than people who are not involved.

            Also, in this case, it’s not just “not correcting” the falsehood–it’s deliberately withholding a correction that you would otherwise have produced. It’s not as if I’m saying that random people are obliged to act–here we have someone who normally would have acted, and deliberately refrained from doing so with the specific intention that people would vote based on misconceptions.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ StellaAthena
            I think that inaction is a kind of action a la arguments of Elizabeth Anscombe, i.e. saying “I can’t be blameworthy for not pulling the lever because I didn’t do anything” is bullshit.

            Did the Trolley Problem come into the debate with Lewis?

          • Spookykou says:

            ‘strategic inaction’ perhaps.

            I was alluding to the kind of utilitarianism we commonly see here which fails to distinguish between action and inaction, and even pooh-poohs the idea that people who are involved have more responsibility than people who are not involved.

            I think that Scott sees this as a potential ‘problem’ but intentionally rejects it for mental health reasons, I vaguely remember reading something to that effect when he was giving an endorsement of give well, or some other charity he is involved with, I could be wrong though. As for his personal moral calculus on this issue.

            He is also I think at least kind of consequentialist I think, I am really not good at philosophy, but shouldn’t that kind of absolve him or something?

      • Robert Liguori says:

        Seconded. On the other hand, I feel like the righteous wrath which made the piece be written in the first place only got invoked after the election and the wolf-crying started in real earnest. Calling a presidential candidate a double-secret super racist is just business as usual, but turning and saying to people “Yup, Trump will definitely put you in a camp and kill you.” is beyond that.

        • Deiseach says:

          turning and saying to people “Yup, Trump will definitely put you in a camp and kill you.” is beyond that

          Scaring the pants off vulnerable people by saying that is beyond the beyond, which is what is making me so angry when I see it all around. There are people who really do think their door will be kicked in and they will be hauled off to forcible gay conversion camps, or raped on the streets and it be no longer a crime, or driven out of the country back to their ancestral nations, and they’re not the angry ones posting online, they’re scared and worried and tying themselves up in knots over it.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m willing to take Scott’s word that he is seeing real patients who are really going through these sorts of struggles.

            But part of me wonders if no small part of the people claiming this are faking it explicitly for political reasons. I mean, it’s somewhat obvious to many that the protesters who are blocking traffic and committing vandalism in cities that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary are not doing the leftist cause any particular good.

            But let’s say you’re an upset Hillary supporter who isn’t giving up on the idea that you still have a great opportunity to damage Trump or his supporters. Say that “taking to the streets” isn’t really your style or you just think it’s dumb. What else might you do? Well, you might report yourself as clinically depressed due to the election – such that the NYT can write articles on how Trump is depressing people. You might try to play the sympathy card rather than the anger card. Make yourself the victim here. Talk about how Trump makes you feel unsafe (the one plea that society still seems to universally respect regardless of how baseless it might be).

            I’m not saying ALL cases are this – but I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that some of them are… I would also suggest that anyone who is legitimately scared and tying themselves in knots over Trump probably had some serious emotional, psychological, or intelligence problems that pre-dated Trump and are only manifesting themself now.

          • Randy M says:

            I would also suggest that anyone who is legitimately scared and tying themselves in knots over Trump probably had some serious emotional, psychological, or intelligence problems

            Given that this is my assumption as well, if it is a deliberate strategy, I don’t think it will be an effective one.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But part of me wonders if no small part of the people claiming this are faking it explicitly for political reasons.

            I’m sure lots of people area, although Scott’s patients probably aren’t. At any rate, going to see a psychiatrist seems like more effort than is necessary if you’re just pretending.

          • Matt M says:

            Given that this demographic probably consists of neurotic millenialls who may have prior conditions, perhaps they’re already seeing psychologists? So the only cost is lying to your psychologist.

            Or, as George Costanza said on Seinfeld, it’s not a lie if you believe it…

      • Deiseach says:

        I give Scott the benefit of the doubt because I imagine, in part, he thinks that most people on here would not be Trump voters anyway (despite the aspersions that we’re all right-wing fanatics cluttering up the comment boxes nowadays) and that Trump voters would not be likely to read this blog. But some people might be wavering on Trump as against Clinton (or Johnson), and his article might tip the scales for them to vote for Trump, and that he thinks Trump is such a disaster (and I’m not saying he’s wrong there), that would be irresponsible and blameworthy.

        I appreciate his honesty and fairness in writing this piece and publishing it at all, given that he vastly dislikes Trump, is a liberal not a conservative, and (probably pretty much accurately) forecasts a lot of pain in the neck from people reading this and thinking he’s a fascist nazi racist misogynist homophobic xenophobic apologist – you know, crawled straight out of Hillary’s basket of deplorables to type this up – and might even indulge their feelings beyond abusive communications and would try doxxing him or getting him in trouble with his employers or worse, any future employment in the fair utopia of California in a private practice as a psychiatrist applying unction to the hurts of the blissful inhabitants of that happy wonderland.

        • I’m with Scott on this, in part because I do see a difference between action and inaction.

          I see a lot of people saying things that I think are wrong. I don’t have the time and energy to answer all of them. One basis for selection is whether I think the error is interesting or I have something interesting to say in response, or some easy way of demonstrating the error. But another is what effect I think correcting the error will have.

          The clearest example would probably be the case of climate arguments. I think the widespread confidence that AGW, if not stopped, will have large net negative effects is unjustified. So when I see an obviously mistaken or dishonest argument for such effects, I’m much more likely to respond to it than when I see an equally bad argument on the other side. That doesn’t mean that I am willing to make arguments I believe are bad, and I don’t.

        • Jiro says:

          But I don’t think that’s one anyone would accept in any other context. Consider my example of a Republican refusing to correct the false belief that Obama was born in Kenya, because he’s afraid that it would lead someone to vote for Obama.

          Or if you want a left-wing example, if it was 2004, and Bush was up for reelection, and Scott was going to debunk 9/11 conspiracy theories, would it be appropriate to wait until after the election, because telling people “Bush didn’t cause 9/11” before the election might get some of them to vote for Bush?

          What kinds of misapprehensions is it appropriate to intentionally withhold corrections about? What if it’s 2008 and I was going to debunk the idea that Obama is a Muslim; should I wait until after the election so that people who believe Obama is a Muslim won’t vote for him?

          and that he thinks Trump is such a disaster (and I’m not saying he’s wrong there), that would be irresponsible and blameworthy.

          The reasons that most people think Trump would be a horrible disaster like the world has never known, are exactly the reasons he’s debunking. The remaining reasons are reasons to think he’s bad, but not reasons to think he’d be a unique apocalyptic disaster evil mutant. I think Scott is caught up in the anti-Trump narrative even while being too smart to actually believe it’s true.

          Furthermore, taking the attitude “this candidate is so bad that it’s better that people vote against the candidate based on lies” is exactly the type of bad discourse he’s complained about in the past, except that instead of spreading lies, he’s just intentionally letting people believe the lies.

          • Spookykou says:

            The reasons that most people think Trump would be a horrible disaster like the world has never known, are exactly the reasons he’s debunking. The remaining reasons are reasons to think he’s bad, but not reasons to think he’d be a unique apocalyptic disaster evil mutant.

            To be fair to Scott, he obviously did not buy into the ideas that he was recently debunking and yet clearly thought Trump was so horrible, and yes even potentially apocalyptic, that he wrote a post which he seemed(to take him at his word) reluctant to write.

            More broadly I would agree that the main stream media painted a picture of Trump as some sort of domestic horror, but here, a fair deal of the anti-trump talk was focused on his foreign policy and personality. His pulling support from our mutual defense treaties and generally being a hot head were, I think, almost exclusively the reasons that people on SSC thought Trump was apocalyptic, nothing to do with death squads and door kicking.

      • carvenvisage says:

        Which I find bizarre. It shows a certain ruthlessness on Scott’s part to want to take Trump down even if it involves knowingly not correcting people who will vote against him based on falsehoods

        lmao duh

        as part of the search for truth it pretty much sucks

        Maybe that’s because, (as Scott explicitly and unequivocally stated) said-delay was not chosen “as part of the search for truth”, but (as you said), “because he didn’t want to accidentally convince people to support Trump”.

         

         

        It’s like being a Republican in 2008, knowing that Obama was not born in Kenya, and refusing to say so until after the election because you might accidentally convince someone to vote for Obama.

        This comparison is false and proves nothing if true: Scott didn’t stumble across heretefore unknown hard evidence, of the kind someone would need to ‘know’ where Obama was born, -or stumble across heretofore unknown evidence of any kind. He paid attention, collected and collated things in one place, and made arguments. -If not for Scott, there’s no Scott’s article, -it’s a creation of his.

         

        And if it was true so what? Not being so charitable as to hang yourself with your own persuasiveness, evidence gathering skills, and analysis, freely provided to others, is not a crime.

        Not being so charitable as to (what-you-believe-is-) hang your country, -whether in the case of trump or obama, is absolutely, utterly, beyond reproach. It’s a disgrace to criticise Scott for not upholding standards of truth even higher than he already does, first of all absolutely, but more importantly, relatively.

        -It’s not exactly Atlantis here.

        Or some alternative ancient athens that didn’t kill socrates, or indeed the ancient athens that did. Or the next thing down, or the next or the next…

         

        It’s as if Scott was roaming an apocalyptic wasteland*, unarmed but for the power of Ki, and his bare hands, -no nukes nor poison gas nor guns nor knives, and you criticise him for, once, closing them into fists, when (he perceives) the stakes were very high.

        Except that not providing people with something quite as soon as they in retrospect would like, is not an offensive weapon of any kind, even a fist.

        (*representing ‘the current state of ‘public discourse’ ‘ in this metaphor, if that isn’t clear)

        • Jiro says:

          This comparison is false and proves nothing if true: Scott didn’t stumble across heretefore unknown hard evidence, of the kind someone would need to ‘know’ where Obama was born. he paid attention, collated things in one place, and made arguments. If not for Scott, no Scott’s article. If not for publishing of evidence, still evidence.

          You didn’t need to stumble across heretofore unknown hard evidence to know that Obama wasn’t born in Kenya either, or to know that Obama isn’t a Muslim. You just needed to pay attention, collate things in one place, and make arguments–just like here.

          It’s as if Scott was roaming an apocalyptic wasteland*, unarmed but for his hands, -no nukes nor poison gas nor guns nor knives, and you criticsed him for once closing them into fists, when (he believed) the stakes were very high.

          If that analogy truly held, it would justify a lot of other things than just deliberately withholding arguments that rebut lies. It would justify outright making lies. It would justify getting people fired for supporting Trump. Basically, it would justify every single bad thing that social justice says is okay to do because, after all, the enemy is really bad and we need to do what we can to fight it.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I really thought the “(*representing ‘the current state of ‘public discourse’ ‘ in this metaphor, if that isn’t clear)” was unnecessarry, but apparently you thought the apocalyptic wasteland represented just SJWs, and missed it, so actually it wasn’t enough. Alas life is hard.

            And no, it wouldn’t because somehow the purity of the ki makes it really really effective. We can observe for ourselves the warrior monk’s capability to dismantle fleets of hate-machines (pun obviously intended).

            And again, no, obviously, because using closed fists doesn’t even mean you’re going to use even a knife for defense, never mind a sword or a gun, and it certainly has nothing to do with the kind of weapons that fuck up the environment, especially ones which do so on a large scale, -like I already ever so cleverly already outlined in my brilliant onion-like metaphor.

             

            No one knows where obama was born. The issue is socially settled but I would assume it’s not that difficult to fake a birth certficate. You used the word know. Take it seriously or use another.

            Scott’s post also doesn’t conclusively prove anything. It certainly makes a strong case, but it doesn’t mean we all know trump wasn’t-really really-racist. It doesn’t ‘debunk’ the idea, it presents really strong arguments against it. Probably not even as much as obama’s birth certificate, which is a really low bar.

             

            Also debunk is a stupid word for liars that think vehement and/or smug assertion is magic. Rebut is a little better.

    • drethelin says:

      Neither of those are racist in any useful sense of the word.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      For those of you who have the surprisingly common form of brain damage that prevents you from recognizing any kind of racism that isn’t anti-semitism, imagine that, any time Scott posted something approving about Israel, the first comment was someone saying, “How can we trust you to be fair on this issue? You’re jewish!” This is pretty much identical to Trump’s remarks about Curiel.

      • Matt M says:

        What do you think about the 1,000 media personalities who said, “How can Trump expect Hispanics to vote for him? He wants to build a wall!”

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        EK, apparently most of SSC commentary must have brain damage, because it appears to me that most of us agree with Scott on this issue. Neither of the examples you brought up amount to racism. The birther one obviously has nothing to with race if you don’t already have priors in that direction, and the one with the ethnically Mexican judge was because Trump reasonably thought Mexicans might have some bias against him (as many many leftists would have agreed, until this particular episode came up). These two incidents indict Trump for not having much concern with reality, but by no means make him a racist.

        I thought the same thing about your arguments about Trump being a sexual predator. You apparently have a really string dislike for Trump, and it is overriding your otherwise sensible intellect. I haven’t noticed you letting your emotions override your intellect in any other discussions, so it must be something about Trump that gets you riled up. I think you need to accept that this isn’t the case for most others. There were a few pro-Trump folks in these comments a month or two ago that were similarly over the top, but they let up after a while. I think you should also stop with the Trump discussions too. Maybe we could re-visit in 6 months.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          apparently most of SSC commentary must have brain damage

          Well, let’s test that. I gave a straightforward analogy above. Is it racist to say that Scott’s views on Israel shouldn’t be trusted because he’s jewish? The answer is yes, right? If so, how does this differ from Trump’s remarks about Curiel?

          I thought the same thing about your arguments about Trump being a sexual predator.

          This suggests that you’re pretty deeply steeped in delusion, and I shouldn’t give any weight to your opinion on Trump’s racism, either. A dozen women accuse Trump of doing exactly what he bragged about doing on the tape, many of them provide some degree of corroborating evidence, and you don’t think that’s enough to make the case? Tell me, were you part of the mob of commenters here who were keen to accuse Hillary of all sorts of crimes, on a much flimsier basis?

          • Moon says:

            People who watch “America’s most trusted news source”– Fox News– or listen to Right Wing Radio, or Breitbart– believe every conspiracy theory in the book about Hillary.

            We just have a huuuuuge propaganda problem in the U.S. And we have many people who believe every bizarre conspiracy theory about HRC that their propaganda ‘news sources” spew out– and believe that Trump is innocent of even of things he even admitted himself to doing, in tapes that are not played on Right Wing “news sources.” The Right Wing media watchers/listeners/readers must think that someone else made up those tapes and that they don’t really exist.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Is it racist to say that Scott’s views on Israel shouldn’t be trusted because he’s jewish?

            Well we certainly have different views of what is racism. Isn’t racism something about thinking that one race is superior to another? No I don’t think it would be racism if someone said that about Scott. Stupid in this case, yes, but not racism to claim that someone might be defensive about one’s tribe. What is racism to you? Is it simply consciousness that various people have a particular race, and believing that sometimes that might affect their behavior? If so, then you are right; Trump is a racist. And 90% of the rest of America.

            A dozen women accuse Trump of doing exactly what he bragged about doing on the tape, many of them provide some degree of corroborating evidence, and you don’t think that’s enough to make the case?

            I haven’t read about those particular cases. I am sure however, that it would be easy to find 1000 anti-Trump woman to totally fabricate stories about Trump if it would hurt him. Probably 10,000. And the tape they had of Trump did not have one word of predation; it was simply him boasting about his ability to get women. Do you believe Trump when he boasts about how smart he is, or how much money he makes? Do you only believe his boasts when it makes him look bad?

            No I doubt most of the comments made about Hillary too. I am very very skeptical about any stories that are clearly made by political partisans. I take that you only believe the stories if you don’t like the person being slandered? That is a nasty shot, but it does follow from your comment.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I haven’t read about those particular cases. I am sure however, that it would be easy to find 1000 anti-Trump woman to totally fabricate stories about Trump if it would hurt him. Probably 10,000.

            If this were true, wouldn’t pretty much every controversial male politician get accused of rape by scads of women?

            And the tape they had of Trump did not have one word of predation;

            Okay, the problem is definitely that you’re delusional, then. Do you have a daughter, or a wife? Would you appreciate it if a man walked up to her and didn’t even wait, just started kissing her, then decided to see whether she would let him grab her by the pussy?

          • Jiro says:

            If this were true, wouldn’t pretty much every controversial male politician get accused of rape by scads of women?

            Exactly what each politician gets accused of is based on chance and depends on random initial conditions; once a potentially viable accusation gets popular because of random fluctuations, it builds on itself and gets more popular.

            This also means that each politician has some unique accusations made about him, and you can always point out, post-hoc, that no other politician has the same accusations made so clearly everyone specifically hates this politician because of racism or sexism (if you support the politician) or because the politician is uniquely bad (if you oppose him).

          • Matt M says:

            I would be willing to bet that prominent political figures (and probably celebrities as well) are far more statistically likely to be accused of rape than an average person is.

            And that this proportion will increase as society continues to travel down the “automatically believe all victims 100% of the time” road…

          • Earthly Knight says:

            What other cases have there been of major public figures facing mass allegations of sexual misconduct? Bill Cosby, Jimmy Savile, Roger Ailes, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bill Clinton had a few accusers. But we’re pretty sure all of those people are guilty, aren’t we? It seems like it’s actually fairly rare for numerous people to credibly accuse a celebrity of committing the same crime, and when it does happen, the allegations tend to be true.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Earthly Knight:

            Considering Savile, I wonder how common it is to have a sudden mass of accusations against a living vs a dead celebrity. My understanding in the Savile case is that there were rumours and maybe some accusations while he was still alive, but the vast majority of it came out after he died, and it became apparent that credible charges had been ignored or papered over.

          • Moon says:

            Earthly, if one chooses one’s ‘news sources” carefully enough, one can hear over and over that Trump is the savior of the working class and that he is innocent of everything bad that he is accused of.

            Humans believe things that they allow themselves to hear, uncritically, thousands of times in a row. And, for propagandists, stirring people up into fear and rage works great for turning off the rational logical analytical centers of the mind and leaving the mind defenseless against incoming propaganda.

          • Matt M says:

            Fortunately our good tech overlords are about to fix that and not allow us to pick our own news sources anymore!

          • Moon says:

            Matt, no they are not. Our tech overlords are interested in making money. Circulating lies and propaganda makes a lot of money for them.

            That’s the problem with a crony capitalist system like ours. It’s incompatible with democracy. Because one can make so much money circulating lies and propaganda and info-tainmnent, that everyone does it. And one loses money by pissing off powerful rich propagandists, who make a stink and get their supporters to boycott your services.

            Investigative journalism disappeared a long time ago. Places like Facebook can make the most money by circulating propaganda, and not angering powerful rich purveyors of falsehoods, like GOP propagandists, so they’ll probably end up doing it.

            The lies you want to read are probably very safe, Matt. You must be very happy about that. You’ll be able to continue to read about Hillary being involved in child sex trafficking and having murdered 100 people or so who tried to investigate her in some way.

          • CatCube says:

            @Moon

            Humans believe things that they allow themselves to hear, uncritically, thousands of times in a row.

            Yes, we have ample evidence here of people allowing themselves to hear–uncritically and thousands of times in a row–and believe that “propaganda” is purely a sin committed by the Right.

        • keranih says:

          @ Mark V Anderson –

          You apparently have a really string dislike for Trump, and it is overriding your otherwise sensible intellect. I haven’t noticed you letting your emotions override your intellect in any other discussions, so it must be something about Trump that gets you riled up. I think you need to accept that this isn’t the case for most others.

          This is well put, and I agree. We all have our bugbears & blindspots.

          (I don’t mind that EK disagrees with me on my assessment of Trumph, it’s him labeling me brain-damaged (and “you are just like [this thing I am trying to convince you Trump is]”.

          Dunno if six months is enough, though.

    • Moon says:

      I don’t know if I think that the birther thing is racist. Trump didn’t start it. He just has no respect for or interest in the truth. He uses anything he can to defeat any opponent of his. If he was against Obama, and he was, then he would use any lie that anyone made up that came along. Although Trump may act racist, I don’t think he is racist in his beliefs. Since he has no beliefs, only strategies to win against his opponents. But acting racist does have just as bad results as believing in racism, so it really doesn’t matter.

      People talk about who Trump is, as if he is a consistent character. He isn’t. He shifts constantly. He just wanted to get votes and to win. His actions can’t be consistent with his beliefs or character, because he has no beliefs or character– only a determination to defeat people, and to win votes during the election campaign. Any popular lie– or truth– would be something he would definitely say, because you win elections by being popular. Just a reality TV star playing a part, from a script.

      • Evan Þ says:

        “But acting racist does have just as bad results as believing in racism, so it really doesn’t matter.”

        It seems to me that it does matter in forming an image of Trump and predicting what he might do, which has obvious implications for judging how bad a President he’ll be.

        • That’s true in both directions. If he was an honest racist, that would predict one pattern of behavior. If he was a dishonest non-racist, which is Moon’s view (with which I am inclined to agree), it would predict a different pattern of behavior. On some issues one would be worse, on other issues the other.

  17. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Scott, something is wrong with your latest. The Washington Post quote is not where its supposed to be; it appears right after the Politico quote. Also, the Politico quote doesn’t have a link to its source.

  18. Nathan Taylor (praxtime) says:

    Scott –
    1. thank you very much for writing this. more viewpoint diversity is needed right now. Guess that’s my main reason for wanting to comment. But since I’m here….
    2. agree not mentioning birtherism is a very noticeable a gap. It’s foundational to how Trump got elected. If you decide to add an update note, that’d be the one I’d pick.
    3. disagree about needing to discuss Judge Curiel. If you the read exact (almost completely incoherent) words Trump said, it’s not that different than other examples. So adding it in won’t change the argument much either way.

  19. StellaAthena says:

    Re: Crying Wolf

    Hilary had a greatly decreased vote count from Obama, and the only data I’ve seen showing Trump gains among minorities is percentage wise. Are actual numbers out yet? I’m wondering if Trump’s gains are just relative

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Votes are still being counted. Turnout, it turns out (ha) was up from 2012, not down. I don’t know specifically what Trump’s vote count is at the moment but it’s likely that it’s higher than Romney’s, which means his better performance with minorities is numbers-wise as well as percentage-wise.

      I dunno how much noise you can really make out of that, since it wasn’t that much higher than Romney. Still, if the GOP made a habit of getting ten or fifteen percent better performance with minorities, it would cripple the Democratic Party, so… worth paying attention to.

      • suntzuanime says:

        It’s kind of funny because the pre-election narrative among the poorly organized and generally dysfunctional unemployed was that this was going to be the election that proves that you don’t have to reach out to minorities, just really crush it among whites. Even the guys who were saying “hell yeah, a wolf!” turned out to be wrong.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        I think what we want to know is whether the share of minorities who were eligible voters in 2016 and supported Trump is larger than the share of minorities who were eligible voters in 2012 and supported Romney. Trump didn’t really do better with minorities than Romney if all that happened was (1) minorities didn’t turn out for Hillary as much as Obama or (2) there are more voting-age minorities in the population now than there were in 2012.

        • StellaAthena says:

          Agreed

        • gbdub says:

          How relevant is it exactly whether he did the same, slightly better, or slightly worse than Romney? That it’s a question at all implies that the “cry wolf” theory has legs – minorities were not strongly more motivated to vote against Trump for his “open racism” than they were against the much milder Romney.

          • Matt M says:

            Because the people who were crying wolf were very explicitly stating that Trump was uniquely racist, even compared to other Republicans, with Romney being the easiest direct comparable (because he was the most recent GOP nominee).

            How he did compared to Romney is the ONLY relevant question if you are addressing the claim that his unprecedented open racism would lead to dramatically different results (in either direction)

        • Deiseach says:

          Trump didn’t really do better with minorities than Romney if all that happened was (1) minorities didn’t turn out for Hillary as much as Obama or (2) there are more voting-age minorities in the population now than there were in 2012.

          I think the question is that Trump did anything with minorities, when everyone was forecasting he’d do poorly or even turn them off in droves with his racism and xenophobia. There was one article where the writer said Trump was struggling to get even 1% of the African-American vote.

          By the graphs Scott provided, Trump ended up with 8% of the African-American vote, 29% Hispanic/Latino, and 29% Asian. That is a respectable result for someone who was constantly being pilloried as the KKK candidate, fascist, racist.

          Yes, it’s not impressive, but it wasn’t supposed to happen at all – witness Mr 1% there. Again, not so much a case of “Trump won the votes” as “Hillary lost the votes”, and that was in part at least to over-confident assumption that the votes from minorities would just flap their little wings and fly into her ballot-boxes because where else were they going to go?

      • roystgnr says:

        Votes are still being counted.

        Some people just claim that eliminating the Electoral College would be a disaster, but only California and Washington have the dynamism to forge ahead and prove it. Very charitable of them.

  20. TheBearsHaveArrived says:

    Welp. I like the crying wolf essay.

    I’m hoping for the best for the next 4 years, and will do my duty to support our president the way my generation knows how to.

    Facebook likes.

    • Randy M says:

      #Doingmypart
      #Makingadifference

    • Murphy says:

      The trend was starting to get to me.

      When I was chatting to a friend the other day and they said “oh, you hear about trump appointing a KKK’er to the cabinet” and all I could respond with was “uh, you mean literally?” “ya!” “someone he’s actually appointed, not just someone that someone else said they felt sure he’d appoint? Someone he literally appointed who was literally in the KKK” “um…. maybe”

      After some digging it turned out that the person in question was Bannon and the “proof” of his racist credentials was a bunch of quotes from authors who weren’t him but did publish on a site he was running and a third hand quote from his ex wife who said he was totally an anti-Semite in the middle of an ugly divorce.

      His actual articles, even from years ago were remarkable only in how boring they were and how none of the articles attacking bannon actually quoted them because they’re so dull.

      On forums I’ve tried to bring this up when people were calling him a nazi (asking for anything he’s actually written, not editorials from people talking about him or things he’s simply failed to block others from publishing) only to be threatened with banning because defending a branded-nazi apparently makes you a sympathizer or something.

      Eventually the “proof” regurgitated was that he made some party political films including scenes like blossoming flowers and regrowth combined with Wagner music and since Wagner was an antisemite and the Nazis made propaganda films with blossoming flowers that means that Bannon is 100% an antisemite nazi.

      I don’t find the guy particularly appealing, everything I can find indicates he’s a bit of an asshole and probably a bit of a sexist asshole but actual physical reality appears to go out the window and since he’s on team trump it’s ingroup-outgroup hate in pure form and no proof can be too crap to brand one of *them* a nazi because all of them are nazi’s.

      • the anonymouse says:

        Reminds me of the old joke about how whenever you get a ten-man Klan meeting, two will be Klansmen, four will be FBI agents, and four will be hillbillies trying to get paid for turning in a Klansman to an agent.

      • TheBearsHaveArrived says:

        I just hope Trump pays attention to meritocracy and average group intelligence for his cabinets and advisers.

        I mean, would people refuse to be an adviser to the president himself if they disliked his campaign? I doubt many would refuse.

        Environmentalists seem to jump at the prospect of changing the guys mind, at all levels.

      • IrishDude says:

        I found this transcript from a speech/interview with Bannon illuminating: https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world?utm_term=.jsDKrr0l3#.uqx100dvk

        He praises the Judeo-Christian West which seems to be a strong argument against him being an anti-Semite. He praises nationalism which is a stance I strongly disagree with though.

        • I read a talk by Bannon, a National Review piece attacking him, and a Mother Jones piece attacking him.

          The Mother Jones piece claims “”We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told me proudly.” The NR piece repeats that. No evidence is given that he actually said it, merely that the author of a hostile article said he said it. As best I can tell by a little googling, the Mother Jones piece is the sole source everyone else quotes.

          The NR piece also has, about Breitbart, “In May, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol was labeled a “Renegade Jew.”” It does not explain that the article in question, written by David Horowitz, was attacking Kristol for his attempts to block Trump on the basis that “To weaken the only party that stands between the Jews and their annihilation, and between America and the forces intent on destroying her, is a political miscalculation so great and a betrayal so profound as to not be easily forgiven.”

          My conclusion is that NR is now worthless as a source of information. There are lots of good reasons to be critical of Trump. There is no need to do it dishonestly.

          Does anyone here know of any source than Mother Jones for the claim that Bannon identified Brietbart as the platform for the alt-right?

          Judging by Bannon’s talk, he is a nationalist, almost certainly hostile to free trade and immigration. But I can see no evidence that he is racist, anti-semitic, or regards himelf as part of the alt-right.

  21. razorsedge says:

    As someone who most probably had ADD but would like to avoid stimulants ( Ritalin , Adderal , Vyanse , Ect), what are the possible methods to circumvent my ADD naturally. I have a hard time focusing, like its close to impossible, coffee helps for a bit but it subsides pretty fast. I got by high school somehow but its catching up to me in college. Any advice from SSC.

    • Sebastian_H says:

      Music. Something soothing and familiar. It will distract some of the running around in your head without causing enough distraction to keep you from doing good work.

      • razorsedge says:

        I listen to pop punk and pop rock and pop while working. Is that decent or do i need calm and mellow music that is instrumental.Ive heard non instrumental music hurts productivity.

        • Fossegrimen says:

          I use semi-white noise when I actually have to concentrate, music for less intensive stuff. Try rainy mood

        • StellaAthena says:

          Punk, Rock, and pop are what I listen to too. However, I think it’s important to remember that other people can give you recommendations, but can’t tell you what’s good or bad. Don’t do something because someone online tells you it’ll make you more productive. Do something because after trying out what someone tells you online, you seem more productive.

    • StellaAthena says:

      I’m an unmedicated ADHD (also autistic, and those two things can be hard to untangle so take this with a grain of salt) person. The single best thing I have found is to let my mind do what it wants. I experience periods of intense focus in which I get crazy obsorbed with things and super productive, periods of extreme distractedness and non-productivity, and periods where I seem roughly normal in these respects.

      With practice, I’ve become very attune to what mode I am in. In college I basically wrote all my essays while hyperfocused. I could churn out multiple pages an hour (I think my record was a 12 page (2x spaced) essay in just under 4 hours). When I’m not in a productive place, I stop trying. I’ll play a video game, or read three pages from 10 different books or take a nap. Fighting it felt counterproductive, as it was exhausting and was a fight I’d usually lose. In college you have a huge amount of flexibility in your assignments. Use that to your full advantage. Learn what times and environments make you the most productive. I’m the most productive after 10 pm. So often times I would wake up, go to class, then dick around for a few hours and take a nap before dinner. Eat a late dinner, chat with people, and at 9:00 go to start working (trying to start at 9 usually meant I was started by 10).

      I really think of it as a rhythm. I have a work rhythm, and so I adapt my working to fit the appropriate places in the rhythm.

      I’m extremely fortunate to have found a job that accommodates such habits. I telework 4 days a week and as long as I bill 40 hours a week they don’t care how it’s broken up. So some days I work 12 hours and other days I work 4

      • razorsedge says:

        I dont have productive periods though. Like there is no hyperfocus. If its something i love like SSC reading then yes i can read fast and understand well and stay focused. But if it is just regular college work than that comes with no focus periods.

        • StellaAthena says:

          I’m really sorry to hear that 🙁

          Honestly, my next thought was “unhealthy amounts of caffeine?” But if I come up with a different answer I’ll be sure to let you know. In the meanwhile, even if your settings are only “no productivity” and “”normal people” productivity”, it’s worth discovering any patterns that might exist in that

        • Inky Llama says:

          I too am missing these hyperproductivity periods, but have made do with the aforementioned unhealthy amounts of coffee, and pomodoro timers.

          An audible indicator that “it doesn’t matter how effective you believe you’ll be at your next task, X, you must start it now,” combined with the almost mental safety net of “continuing to work on this is driving me insane, but I can bear it for another 2.5 minutes,” has really worked for me.

          Your circumstances may be different, of course, but combined with other recommendations in this chain (white noise or music, coffee, and adequate sleep) pomodoros were ridiculously effective for me. When I started using them, I had just lost my scholarships and was being placed on academic probation. Now I’m in a place where I have a successful programming career, and have self-published several books in my writing hobby.

          It’s all about finding what works for you. I never would’ve imagined reaching this point when I first started thinking about dealing with with my ADD, and it sounds like you’re thinking about it a lot earlier than I was. No matter how you end up dealing with it, by dealing with it at all you’re on the right track.

    • Incurian says:

      I believe there are non-stimulant medications that can help treat ADHD.

      To answer your question though, when I really need to focus I blast some music (either relaxing or intense, depending on the task), drink a whole lot of caffeine, eat sunflower seeds (Spitz are the best), and convince myself that I actually will enjoy the challenge of whatever stupid stupid thing I’m doing.

      Also, I imagine if you describe what you mean by having a hard time focusing, people may be able to tailor their advice more appropriately.

    • Dahlen says:

      Well, bad news: caffeine is a stimulant — even though it doesn’t produce its primary effects through the same mechanisms as classic CNS stimulants like amphetamine or methylphenidate. Lots of people with ADHD end up inclined to use not-quite-stimulants to cope with the symptoms.

      If your inattention problems are severe, try modifying your environment so as to reduce distracting stimuli. For instance, I’ve had some computer trouble recently which left me without access to it for about a week. I suddenly understood the early lives and education of prominent 19th century scientists. It was boring as all hell! Consequently, I embarked on an intensive exercise regimen and was this close to entertaining myself with partial derivatives. Get yourself stuck in a room with nothing but your college books for a while.

      Also, general psychotherapeutic techniques (scheduling, searching your heart for the reasons why you dislike your work, cannily timing breaks and rewards, and just holding the goal in your mind) take you about 10% through the road to your goal. In my experience their effectiveness is unsatisfying, leading you to mediocre results at best. But I’ve gone years without doing even that. And let me tell you, 10% is still better than 0%.

      Also also, may I ask why you dislike the idea of medication? Is it that you don’t have a diagnosis and prescription, or that you want to avoid the side effects? For me, it’s the first time meddling with my neurochemistry and it shows; I’m finally able to do stuff ahead of time and show up in class without absolutely needing to. It doesn’t solve all your problems, particularly regarding interest/pleasure in doing work, but it’s a big step ahead.

      • Anonymousse says:

        If your inattention problems are severe, try modifying your environment so as to reduce distracting stimuli.

        Seconded. Physically (or virtually, in the sense of website blocking and the like if the work involves a computer) removing distractions works far better for me than just trying to apply will power.

        Interestingly, medication did make me feel like I was more interested in and derived more enjoyment from my work.

        • Dahlen says:

          Interestingly, medication did make me feel like I was more interested in and derived more enjoyment from my work.

          Hmm. What were you on, if you don’t mind me asking? And what kind of work was it?

          • Anonymousse says:

            Concerta, and it was most work, from attending classes to practicing chemistry problems while listening to ambient music.

            I now find it difficult to read text books without falling asleep, though whether that is a long-term side effect of medication or a general reflection on poor sleep habits is a bit beyond me.

    • bean says:

      Serious ADD here. I’d suggest just taking the pills. At the very least, try it. I’ve been on them for over 17 years now, and haven’t had serious problems. It really, really helps.

      • One approach to ADD I have seen described is to have multiple projects running. Whenever you get bored with one you switch to another.

        • bean says:

          I do a lot of that. The problem is that there are some things which are just not interesting enough to do regardless of how short a time you’re going to do them for.

        • Dahlen says:

          If we’re talking multiple projects of the same type (e.g. studying 5 different textbooks or working at 40 different 3D models), all done for the same reason (“become a STEM buff”, “release this set”), this is likelier to result in a feeling that you’re never getting anywhere close to the final goal, despite a subjective impression that you’re working all the time. (I have a failure mode where I read several introductory chapters to textbooks at a time and end up feeling like a perpetual novice in everything.) People need to pass milestones and finish stuff to feel like they’re progressing, which is the psychological reward that fuels persistence. “Jack of all trades, master of none” etc.

          It may work if the projects you’re juggling are of a different nature each (e.g. exercising + studying + coding + learning a practical skill), but even so there’s the natural limit of available hours in a day.

      • razorsedge says:

        Stimulants make anxiety worse , id rather be a mediocre college student than be anxious and miserable all the time. Plus anxiety zaps my productivity much more than Add does. ADD might make me crap at working and lower my grades from like an A- to a B , but bad anxiety can make me give or take non-functional, academically speaking.

        • Anonymousse says:

          I had a similar reaction of increased anxiety when I was on medication, though not crippling. So hey, N = 2!

          • razorsedge says:

            I havent tried it yet, but the warnings are just a bit too dire in terms of anxiety effects.

          • Anonymousse says:

            Ahh. Sorry to assume! Hope some of the suggestions here have been helpful.

          • Incurian says:

            In the last month I started taking prescription stimulants.

            Adderall did not make me anxious. In fact one note I made was how stable and calm I felt. I didn’t feel hyper and anxious like when I drink caffeine, I just felt like whatever demon was keeping me from focusing had been banished. I just felt normal and could do my work and stuff. On the other hand, it also kept my heart rate at 110bpm for 12 hours at a time and eliminated my appetite and sex drive.

            So I switched to Ritalin, and at first I did think that it made me anxious and felt very similar to caffeine. Then I dropped the dose by 5mg and I just felt normal again. It doesn’t seem to work quite as well as Adderall, but it also doesn’t shoot my heart rate up quite as high or for as long, and if anything I think it has increased my appetite and sex drive. I do have dry mouth though 🙁

            Anyway, YMMV since brain chemistry is like complicated and stuff, but I wanted you to know that anxiety does not necessarily come bundled with stimulants, and your anxiety may even be reduced if you’ve been feeling anxious about not getting any work done.

        • bean says:

          Really, if you haven’t tried it, get to your doctor and do so now. I can understand worrying about side effects, but the chances of something going horribly wrong in the short term are basically zero. Make sure you have a couple of days where you don’t have much going on (I often played with my meds over school breaks), and try it. It might change your life. The day I took my first dose was also the day I learned to read.

    • yodelyak says:

      ADD is sometimes related to depression, in ways I do not understand at all. Someone I know is a very high-functioning ADD person when she feels she is loved and has purposeful work. She’s worse than useless in a situation where she is pursuing extrinsic motivation from an impersonal amoral authority–like writing a paper for a professor she doesn’t understand or relate to. I can’t even tell you how many weeks of 10- and 12-hour days she can sink into an 8 page paper, and come up empty at the deadline. She seems only to relate to her work as a deeply meaningful project–a labor of love–so when she doesn’t love it, and/or doesn’t feel it can succeed, she is impressively ineffectual.

      So, some good advice might be to cultivate your interests–do the (healthy) stuff you love, and lots of it, which helpfully is pretty good advice for anyone. Another good piece of advice may be to guard your motivation–don’t do things that don’t work, you’ll get discouraged. So unless there’s a good reason to think “staying at it” is going to make the difference, keep working at finding ways to work smarter (or achieve hyperfocus, or etc) before you settle for just slogging it out.

    • carvenvisage says:

      My 2c/theory:

      Take something you like doing, and try to do it really really well, -to improve at it, all that malarkey.

      -Because you like doing it, you’ll have an easier time focusing, so it’s a good place to build up focus from remedial beginnings.

      Try to spark the beginnings of an ability to focus here in an evvironment friendly to it -providing natural interest. -A spark, away from cold winds.

      And at some point try to duplicate it/apply it elsewhere.

      And growing it from there you might end up with something that can survive in a neutral environment, and eventually thrive in a hostile one.

       

      (potential lifehack: make ~’attempting to focus’ something you really really like /take pride in doing.)

       

      (Alternatively, start with a hostile environment, -that tries to disrupt your focus, and focus on resisting the disruptions (even if there’s nothing for them to disrupt).)

       

      (unstated theory: focus can come from interest, manually, or from resistance to distraction. Mobilisation of these can be made a habit/ability from nothing, -there doesn’t need to be a preexisting habit to improve. Also: Some people have 0 of the second, maybe some people have 0 of the third. Almost no one has zero of the first. Using the first and third, -or just the first, the second can be inculcated.)

       

       

      edit:

      Another way to approach it is that being unable to focus is like not being able to convince the part of you that has the reins on attention assignation, that the thing you deem important, is important.

      -Some part of you controls how to assign attention. You can look at this as a subagent of you, or (/and) as an agent in itself that can be convinced, appealed to, made friendly, etc. (imo it’s both)

  22. Acedia says:

    The internet is making everyone crazy. So many people I know seem to be on the verge of hysterical psychosis over the election result that sometimes I’m genuinely not sure whether I’m the one in the wrong for feeling relatively calm and optimistic.

  23. Moon says:

    I think Trump is racist in some senses, but I also think that is the least of the problems with him. He is racist in the sense that he is fine with acting racist or speaking in a racist way to get what he wants. He is racist in the sense that he will use racism when it helps in his self-promotion. But he actually seems to not have any beliefs, or any interest in what the truth might be, in any matter.

    He’s simply a self-promotion machine. He’s an actor like Reagan– except totally lacking in any competencies other than acting, and perhaps real estate negotiation.

    Trump acts the part of the politically incorrect tough macho billionaire, riding in on his white house to save the common folk. And people who respond positively to that sort of act– and find it believable– find him charismatic. People who are turned off by that sort of thing are disgusted. Also people who are turned off by nearly total incompetence, and total disregard for the truth, are disgusted too.

    All we can predict about a self-promotion machine as president, is that he is going to try to use the presidency for self-aggrandizement. But the presidency is not the same as running for office. It’s not just bs’ing at rallies to say what people respond emotionally to, in order to get their admiration and their votes.

    Trying to use the presidency solely for the purpose of bringing more wealth and glory for his incompetent self, is going to be really weird. And since he can’t do anything much except bs, it’s all going to depend on the people he surrounds himself with. He’s incapable of handling the job of president. So those who end up handling it for him are going to determine how it will come out.

    • John Schilling says:

      In the sense that he is fine with acting racist or speaking in a racist way to get what he wants

      But that’s not what he has been doing, unless you stretch the definitions almost to the breaking point. As Scott notes, he mostly does the exact opposite, and the few exceptions are pretty weak stuff.

      What Trump has been doing, is conspicuously not defending himself against charges of racism. That stands out, and to some people it stands out in a bad way. Standard Operating Procedure is, the Democratic Party accuses essentially every Republican candidate of racism. Every Republican candidate defends themselves against that charge, distracting them from their actual campaign but the alternative is unthinkable. The defense is necessarily mediocre, because it is nearly impossible to prove a negative. So the baseline is, Republicans are all somewhat racist, offer only mediocre defenses against charges of racism, and the latter is proof of the former.

      Trump, offering no defense at all, must obviously be much more racist than the average Republican with their mediocre defense. Or, possibly, he’s just the first one willing to stake his political career on the Keepers of that particular Ideological Superweapon having allowed their powder to get a bit damp.

      He won’t be the last. And some of those who follow in his path will be actual racists. You all got a plan B?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Easier for Trump to stake his political career than most, since he didn’t have one. Although he did risk damage to the valuable Trump brand.

        • Matt M says:

          Risk?

          It will be interesting to see, but I think even in victory, he did actually do significant damage to the Trump brand. There are probably far more resentful rich liberal celebrities who will refuse to stay in a Trump branded hotel than there are people rich enough to afford one who will deliberately go there because they like Trump or just think it’s cool that they’re staying in a hotel built by the President.

          I think the other Scott A addressed this earlier, but the that Trump is only in this to help promote his business is insane – from any rational perspective this probably hurts him financially.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If Trump didn’t win, there was speculation about him capitalizing on his fame through a political television show or something to that effect. If he did that, and didn’t lose enough people repelled by his brand than he could could have made some money. I highly doubt that was his intention though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I recall some speculation being specifically that his plan was to lose in such a way that it could be blamed on a rigged system, then start up a right-wing news network as a rival to Fox.

          • Matt M says:

            Destroying the value of the core business your family has been in for several decades all to help you launch a new business in a ridiculously competitive arena with negative growth that is not at all adjacent to your old one in which you have no brand value or expertise seems like a VERY poor business strategy.

            But I guess this plays into the “lol he’s a terrible businessman anyway” argument the left kept throwing out there too…

      • Acedia says:

        Or, possibly, he’s just the first one willing to stake his political career on the Keepers of that particular Ideological Superweapon having allowed their powder to get a bit damp.

        Yes. I think the alt right as a whole might be glibly summarized as people who’ve figured out that the most rhetorically effective reply to “You’re a racist!” isn’t “No I’m not!”, it’s “So?” Most accusers have no idea how to respond to it and just end up repeating themselves, like someone who pulled out a cross against a vampire and discovered it didn’t work.

        • Matt M says:

          Right. And I think there’s a huge disconnect between the left, who sees the response of “So?” as people essentially admitting that they agree with the accusation and totally are racist – and the people (a group that includes, but is not limited to, Trump and the alt-right) who actually employ this tactic and do NOT see it as an admission of racism, but rather as simply the most effective way to move on and discuss something more important.

          I think an overwhelming amount of the logic of “Trump is openly racist” rests on the unstated premise of “well we called him a racist and he DIDN’T spend 40 hours systematically denying it so he must be admitting it’s true!”

        • Wander says:

          I strongly agree that this is the case. It’s a tactic that I’ve had to use myself in the Guardian comments, where I make a comment about immigration policy or whatever and get called a racist. The best response tends to be something like “okay, sure, lets go with that, but am I wrong?”

      • Moon says:

        Since more minorities than white people are in the lower socioeconomic class, and since the GOP is even more the party of the .01% than Dems, then GOP candidates’s policies affecting minorities badly. But to me that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re racist. It just means they’re the party of the .01%, They just don’t see the 99.99% at all.

        Although I do see Trump as somewhat racist– although not unusually so for a Fox News watcher of his generation– like Scott, I am less concerned about that quality in and of itself, than about Trump’s overall incompetence.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          IT sure is amazing how Trump captured the White house with only the votes of the 0.01%. Those votes are more weighted than I thought.

      • In the sense that he is fine with acting racist or speaking in a racist way to get what he wants

        But that’s not what he has been doing, unless you stretch the definitions almost to the breaking point. As Scott notes, he mostly does the exact opposite, and the few exceptions are pretty weak stuff.

        i think you are focussing on the wrong point there — it’s not that T. is using insincere racism to get his way , it is that he is using insincere racism (and many other things) to get his way. He is a winning machine with no core beleifs.

      • Deiseach says:

        What Trump has been doing, is conspicuously not defending himself against charges of racism.

        Possibly. But how do you do that? If you do spend time defending yourself against such charges, the opposition campaign goes “Whoo-hoo! We’ve got the magic button! Keep them tied up in charges of racism and they’ll be so busy responding to that, they can’t get their own message out!”

        Because if Smith and Jones are running in a political race, what both their campaigns will be trying their utmost to do is get the opposing candidate into a position where the next day’s headlines in the newspapers are “Smith (or Jones) denies charges of baby-eating”.

        Because they know damn well that what the public will take away from that is not “I knew there was nothing to it” but “OMG! I had no idea Jones (or Smith) was a baby-eater!”

        I’m wondering if that’s what was behind Trump and that Duke incident; that his campaign team had coached him (not specifically about racism, but about everything) “If they try to get you to denounce or decry or refuse or revoke or whatever anything to do with any group or putative support, say nothing. Don’t say yes, don’t say no, put them off”. Because even had he said “I don’t want Duke’s endorsement”, the next day headlines would not have been “Okay, Trump is not a racist”, they would have been “Trump rejects KKK support” – and what the public would have taken away from it, as they did take away, was “OMG, I never knew Trump was friendly with the KKK!”

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      Yes, Trump’s main problem is that he’s just dumb. His stupidity comes across as racism.

      Lashing out at a Mexican judge had Paul Ryan castigate Trump by Ryan basically saying “You can’t do that Trump, that’s literally the definition of racism”.

      The birther thing, again, is Trump being an idiot. Along with the birther conspiracy theory, he also accused Cruz’s dad of being involved with the assassination of JFK. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s major news source is the National Enquirer. At the least, Trump doesn’t have the cognitive wherewithal to discern good information from bad information.

      There was that one time about 30 – 40 years ago that Trump was sued (?) for not letting black people live in his buildings. Housing discrimination was probably, again, Trump’s incompetence instead of malice in this instance though who really knows at this point.

      More on the incompetence looks like racism front: Trump didn’t know that calling a black person “Uncle Tom” was offensive:

      Lil Jon has confirmed reports that Donald Trump called him “Uncle Tom” during recording of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice in 2013.

      The rapper posted a statement on Twitter saying Trump had used the racist term, but did not confirm whether or not the Republican presidential nominee was aware of its meaning. He wrote: “When this ‘Uncle Tom’ incident happened on Celebrity Apprentice in the boardroom several of my cast mates and I addressed Mr Trump immediately when we heard the comment. I can’t say if he knew what he was actually saying or not, but he did stop using that term once we explained its offensiveness.”

      […]

      They refer to an episode in which Lil Jon wore an Uncle Sam costume as part of a task. According to one member of The Apprentice’s production team, staffers kept trying to explain to the business mogul that patriotic mascot Uncle Sam was not the same as the racially loaded term Uncle Tom: “He just couldn’t grasp that it was offensive,” they told Billboard.

      I think Trump is the living embodiment of the “don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity” mantra.

      • Moon says:

        “I think Trump is the living embodiment of the “don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity” mantra.”

        Good point. Still, doing an awful thing– whether through malice or stupidity– still effs things up just as badly.

      • Iain says:

        Here’s a fairly long article about the housing discrimination issue. It’s pretty clear that there was a policy of racial discrimination; Trump’s best defense might be to blame the policy on his father, but he was president of Trump Management at the time, so you have to be grading on a pretty steep curve to claim that he doesn’t bear any responsibility.

        More broadly: the claim that Trump is too dumb to avoid being accidentally racist is not particularly reassuring.

      • ump’s main problem is that he’s just dumb. His stupidity comes across as racism.

        He’s stupid in terms of epistemic rationality, the thing where you try to build a true worldview, or at least a consistent one. His winning speaks for itself in terms of instrumental rationality. Smartness is more than one thing.

        • yodelyak says:

          I don’t think that’s correct. http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/path-of-a-hero

          Yes, he won. But as SSC’s pre-election post pointed out–a close race either way shouldn’t have us substantially updating our priors differently than a close race that ultimately went the other way. Someone had to win, and it was close.

          • shakeddown says:

            Especially considering he ran similar campaigns before and was laughed out pretty fast.

          • baconbacon says:

            Someone had to win, and it was close.

            I’ve been thinking about this, and I don’t have a resolution, but does this mean anything in electoral politics? When a team loses at basketball by 1 you can say “look, if they just made the last shot that they missed they probably win the game, it was very close, any one turn in either direction could have changed the outcome”. In politics, especially on a large scale with an electoral college, this is tough to say. How much time and effort would it have taken for Hillary to win Wisconsin? Would putting that time in have prevented her from winning another state she needed to?

            I don’t see people tackling this problem, trying to define what “close” means in an election. If Hillary was absolutely wiped out, had exhausted all of her fundraising and saturated ads to the point where extra dollars wouldn’t make a difference, would it make sense to say it was close? How close to the truth is this description? The 76ers might play the Warriors close for 45 mins and only lose by 6 or 7, but is it a close game if the outcome was never really in doubt (not that this is a parallel, but just as a thought experiment).

          • I’ve been thinking about this, and I don’t have a resolution, but does this mean anything in electoral politics? When a team loses at basketball by 1 you can say “look, if they just made the last shot that they missed they probably win the game, it was very close, any one turn in either direction could have changed the outcome”. In politics, especially on a large scale with an electoral college, this is tough to say. How much time and effort would it have taken for Hillary to win Wisconsin? Would putting that time in have prevented her from winning another state she needed to?

            See below.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            How much time and effort would it have taken for Hillary to win Wisconsin? Would putting that time in have prevented her from winning another state she needed to?

            There has been a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking about how she played for a blowout and put money and resources into Arizona, Utah, Texas, Georgia, etc., while the local parties in the Rust Belt couldn’t get six-figure help to hire canvassers.

          • Iain says:

            The polls narrowed from a 5.7% Clinton lead on October 28 to a 2.9% lead a week later. That’s a 2.8% swing, which would have easily been more than enough to give Clinton the win. Trump’s margin in Florida, for example, was only 1.3%. Pennsylvania was 1.2%. Wisconsin was 1%.

            James Comey released his letter about “new” Clinton emails on the 28th, and retracted it a couple of days before the election. There’s obviously no way to determine how much of an impact it had on the polls, but there’s at least a superficially plausible case that it might have cost Clinton the election. Voters who decided in the last week broke heavily for Trump in all three of the states I listed above. It is, of course, possible that they were going to go for Trump all along. There isn’t really any way to know.

            It’s also worth pointing out that nobody thought Wisconsin would be important the day before the election, and neither campaign was spending much time there. It definitely wasn’t saturated. Clinton spent much of her last week trying to expand her map; for example, she did a big rally in North Carolina the night before the election. She lost North Carolina by nearly 4%.

            In short: it was a close race, and the evidence seems to show that it could easily have gone the other way.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            It’s also worth pointing out that nobody thought Wisconsin would be important the day before the election, and neither campaign was spending much time there.

            Trump had multiple rallies in both, which mystified people at the time. He also outspent Clinton on ads.